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Presidents Obama, Clinton, Biden reflect on passing of Bill Russell

President Obama Honors Medal Of Freedom Recipients

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) presents Basetball Hall of Fame member and human rights advocate Bill Russell the 2010 Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal to twelve pioneers in sports, labor, politics and arts. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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The death of NBA icon Bill Russell has hit the NBA and its community hard.

However, the influence of Bill Russell extends far beyond the hardwood. His work as a civil rights activist — from backing Muhamad Ali in his refusal not to fight in the Vietnam war to marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — made him fans around the nation.

Three of them are presidents, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Biden released a statement through the White House.

“The promise of America is that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. We’ve never fully lived up to that promise, but Bill Russell made sure we never walked away from it...

“Bill Russell is one of the greatest athletes in our history – an all-time champion of champions, and a good man and great American who did everything he could to deliver the promise of America for all Americans.”

Obama and Clinton expressed their sadness at his passing through social media.

Russell has fans everywhere, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put eloquently.