One of the most complete and valuable single-player collections of sports memorabilia scattered to new ownership on Friday night as Hunt Auctions wrapped up its sale of Bill Russell’s personal collection.
Over 400 items from the Hall of Famer’s career hammered to a close during a live finale at TD Garden in Boston, with over $7.4 million in sales. Online bidding began last month.
The auction led off with the last jersey he wore during his NBA career during Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Lakers. Photomatched to two images during the game and to a photo of Russell and Red Auerbach sitting in front of lockers in the Celtics dressing room, the jersey sold for over $1.1 million including the buyer’s premium.
Russell’s Boston Celtics NBA Championship rings from 1957 and 1969 drew significant interest from a number of elite level bidders. The rings represented the first and last of Russell’s unmatched total of eleven NBA championships. The 1957 ring came first, ending at $705,000, believed to be a record price for any basketball related championship ring. Russell’s last championship ring from that 1969 win over the Lakers netted $558,125.
During an NBA on TNT studio show a few days prior to the auction, Shaquille O’Neal pledged to buy Russell’s rings. The winning bidders’ names have not yet been disclosed, however.
The 87-year-old Russell consigned all five of his MVP awards to the auction and they sold for a combined total of over $1.3 million.
Another major item was his 1956 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team gold medal. Housed in its original box, the one-of-a-kind artifact from the Melbourne Games went for $587,500.
Fourteen different lots sold for over $100,000.
Among the individual highlights from the auction:
- 1957-58 NBA Most Valuable Player Award ($235,000)
- 1960-61 NBA Most Valuable Player Award ($211,500)
- 1961-62 NBA Most Valuable Player Award ($305,500)
- 1962-63 NBA Most Valuable Player Award ($293,750)
- 1964-65 NBA Most Valuable Player Award ($293,750
- Naismith Hall of Fame ring ($129,250)
- NBA 50 Greatest Players Ring ($76,375)
- Boston Celtics 11 Championships NBA presentational ring ($176,250)
- State Department NBA Tour Jersey ($223,250)
- 20,000th Rebound Presentational Game Basketball ($111,625)
- 10,000th Point Presentational Game Basketball ($52,875)
- Celtics Fleece Warmup Jacket c.1960s ($94,000)
- Russell’s Personal 1957 Topps rookie card #77 (PSA 7 NM) ($76,375)
- 1961 Lexington Boycott Game scrapbook page with Jackie Robinson letter ($94,000)
- 1964-65 Boston Celtics NBA Championship Trophy (Sold for $152,750)
“The record setting performance attained at the Bill Russell Collection live auction was astounding, yet not surprising,” stated David Hunt, President of Hunt Auctions. “To properly convey the significance of Bill Russell as an athlete, a champion of Civil Rights, and a towering figure in the history of American sports is impossible. Bill embodies the very essence of the title ‘champion’.”
Some of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to MENTOR, a non-profit group that connects young people with adults who can help them with career opportunities, and to Boston Celtics United for Social Justice. A cap Russell wore in honor of Kobe Bryant was a late addition to the auction and became another fundraiser.
My KB hat sold yesterday for $6,637.50! Jeannine & I are adding $5k @HuntAuctions is matching our $5k for a total of $16,637.50 all proceeds go to Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation #MambaForever #mambamentality @NBA @celtics @Lakers @BostonGlobe @espn @BleacherReport @latimes pic.twitter.com/N5Vxf3ozAp
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) December 11, 2021