Bill Russell memorabilia auction nets over $5 million, final game jersey sells for $1.1 million

The auction of Bill Russell memorabilia was a runaway success. 

The 87-year-old civil rights icon and 11-time NBA champion auctioned over 400 items from his long and storied career at the TD Garden on Friday. When the auction closed and the dust settled, the total came to over $5 million. In fact, the top 18 items in the auction brought in over $5.3 million just on their own. 

The biggest seller was the jersey Russell wore at Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. That was his final game, and he won his 11th championship wearing that jersey. On Friday night, it went for $1.1 million. 

The jersey worn by Bill Russell in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals has sold in the @huntauctions sale for $1.1 million.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 10, 2021

Another popular item was his 1956 Olympic gold medal, which sold for $587,500.

Bill Russell’s 1956 Olympic gold medal just sold for $587,500 at auction if my math is right ($500,000 + 17.5% buyer premium). Russell could have done the high jump at the Olympics, too.

— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) December 10, 2021

A page from Russell's scrapbook with a letter from Jackie Robinson sold for $94,000. Robinson wrote that letter to Russell and four of his Black teammates to thank them for refusing to play in a 1961 exhibition in Kentucky, which was segregated at the time. Russell's Celtics warmup jacket also sold for $94,000. 

Amazing Bill Russell worn fleece warmup sells for $94,000 in @huntauctions sale.

The most iconic warmup in all of sports.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 10, 2021

Did Shaq get Russell's rings?

Some of the most talked about items in the auction were two of Russell's championship rings, his first (won in 1957) and 11th (won in 1969).

Shaquille O'Neal was extremely interested in owning those pieces of history. In fact, as he said on "Inside the NBA," he wanted all of Russell's championship rings. 

“I’d like to take some of that stuff off their hands,” O’Neal said Tuesday night via “To be able to have all 11 of those rings, nobody’s outbidding me on that one.”

He couldn't get all 11, but he could get two. So did he? Unfortunately, we don't know yet. We do know that his 1957 ring sold for $705,000, but the auction house isn't revealing who submitted the winning bid. 

Bill Russell's 1957 championship ring — his first of 11 — sold just now at @HuntAuctions for $705,000.

Earlier this week, @SHAQ said "nobody will be able to outbid me."

Auction house not commenting if Shaq was the winner.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 10, 2021

An unspecified amount of the proceeds from the auction are going to MENTOR, an organization that connects young people with adults who can help them with career opportunities, and to Boston Celtics United for Social Justice.

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