Bill Russell had a lot in common with Muhammad Ali. In their primes, both were immensely hard to beat -- ask Foreman and Chamberlain. Both were socially conscious civil rights icons. Both were fighters who energized those around them. Both received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And both have been called "the greatest" and "champ" more often than perhaps any other athlete in their respective sports. The two men's lives were intertwined for decades, but perhaps what they had most in common was an ability to build a friendship. One doesn't inspire the loyalty that figures like Russell and Ali did without a sense of camaraderie and fidelity necessary to fight the good fight. So when Bill Russell addressed Ali's death, it was friendship he focused on. Russell's statement is below:
"It's difficult for me to talk about my friend because real friendship is private. Muhammad Ali knew how to be a friend and that's one of the hardest things to come by. I met him when he returned from the Olympics in 1960. I invited him to my house, which I used to do for all of the Olympic gold medalists that I knew. We shared that experience. He knew how to be a friend and I'll never forget that about him. His friendship meant a great deal to me."
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