Celtics legend Bill Russell speaks to business leaders about mentoring

Posted by Eric Bleier on November 21, 2011

Russell with Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins

Russell with Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins

Joe Murphy / NBAE / Getty Images

Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell returned to Memphis after visiting in 2008 to talk with Memphis business leaders about mentoring youth.

Russell was in town as an honoree for this year’s Freedom Awards presented by the National Civil Rights Museum. Those in attendance received a copy of Russell’s new book, “Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend” with a personalized autograph from Russell.

But the purpose of the event was to let Russell talk about why he supports mentoring youth. Russell talked about his own personal relationship with Red Auerbach, how Auerbach mentored him and in turn how that influenced his belief that everyone, especially young people, need a mentor in their lives.

He told a story about how the Boston Red Sox came to him and asked him to throw out the first pitch at a game. His response was to demand they make amends for excluding black ball players until 1959-becoming the last club to integrate-by supporting mentoring programs in Boston.

That gave way to the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge and their partnership with Mass Mentors.

Those in attendance left with the message that they must find ways to support mentoring in Memphis. In particular, Bruce Hopkins was so moved that he wrote a letter to the editor of the Commercial Appeal. Hopkins said, “With the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation—considered to be one of the top sports foundations—right here in our backyard, sharing with Russell a commitment to youth mentoring, we need to take every opportunity to promote this work in our hometown.”

As with the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge, the Grizzlies Foundation’s TEAM UP Mentoring Initiative uses the leverage of professional sports to bring awareness to the need for adults to be mentors for youth. You can start the process to become a mentor by filling out a mentor interest form.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the event with Russell and guests.


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The Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation is committed to serving Memphis youth through education and mentoring.