Legendary NBA center Bill Russell has issued an apology following his arrest Wednesday when a loaded handgun was found in his carry-on baggage at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
"Before boarding my flight from Seattle to Boston, I had accidentally left a legal firearm in my bag," Russell said, in a statement obtained by the Boston Herald on Sunday. "I apologize and truly regret the mistake. I was issued a citation by the TSA, whose agents couldn't have been more thorough and professional when dealing with this. I really appreciate their efforts to keep air travel safe."
Russell, 79, was arrested after a loaded .38-caliber handgun was found during a Transportation Security Administration screening of his carry-on bag. Russell reportedly had a permit for the weapon, which was confiscated, and he was quickly released.
KOMO News reports additional details.
The 11-time NBA champion was arrested just after 9 p.m. when Transportation Security Administration workers found a loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson firearm in his carry-on bag, according to Lorie Dankers with the TSA. The Port of Seattle Police arrested and cited the 79-year-old on a state charge. He was released that night, but his gun was confiscated, according to airport spokesman Perry Cooper.
In addition to winning 11 titles with the Celtics in the 1950s and 60s, Russell was a five-time MVP and 12-time All-Star during his Hall of Fame career. After retiring in 1969, Russell went on to coach the Celtics, SuperSonics and Kings. The NBA has named its finals MVP trophy in his honor, and Russell was on hand in Miami in June to present the award to the Heat's LeBron James.
Russell has been honored in countless ways in recent years. The Celtics will celebrate Russell, who lives in Washington state, with a commemorative statue in Boston's City Hall Plaza set to be unveiled in November. In May of this year, Phil Jackson paid Russell the ultimate basketball compliment, saying that he would select the Celtics center over Michael Jordan if he was starting a team from scratch.
President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, recognizing his achievements both on and off the court, "Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball," a White House statement read. "Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA -- indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States -- Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality."