Boston — Personal honors never meant much to Bill Russell, one of America’s most successful athletes, with 2 college titles, 1 Olympic gold medal and 11 — count ’em, 11 — N.B.A. championships with the Boston Celtics.
He has never visited the Basketball Hall of Fame, where he was the first black N.B.A. player enshrined, in 1975. He has his reasons; he always does.
Given his blast-from-the-past ’60s positions on race and just about anything, Russell is often asked about his reaction to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he will receive from President Obama on Tuesday, as will former President George H. W. Bush, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Stan Musial and 11 others.