Basketball legend Bill Russell‘s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics sold for $587,500 as part of an auction of hundreds of his personal memorabilia items that ended Friday.
Russell, then 22, scored a team-leading 14.1 points per game as the U.S. won all eight games in Melbourne by an average 53.5 points per game.
Russell could have skipped the Melbourne Olympics, which were held during the NBA season in November and December, but instead delayed the start of his Boston Celtics career.
“Ever since I was a kid, there were social and physical icons that I always heard about. And you think of these things in awe. And when I got to the age where I qualified for the Olympics, I wanted to go,” Russell said, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum. “Then, the honor of The Olympics was to compete. Not to win, but to compete. I really wanted that. If I hadn’t made that Olympic basketball team, I was going to participate in the high jump. I was ranked second in the country in the high jump [Editor’s Note: Track and Field News ranked Russell third in the U.S. and seventh in the world in 1956], so either way, I was going to Melbourne. I wanted to be a part of that Olympic experience.”
The record price for an Olympic gold medal was set in 2013, when one of Jesse Owens‘ four golds from the 1936 Berlin Games went for $1,466,574.
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In 56 I could have made the Olympics in high jump but turned it down to play basketball instead we could only play one sport then. Track and Field News ranked me #7 high jumper in the world, I was ranked #2 in the US @ the time. @celtics @NBA pic.twitter.com/6FqZjiMlhG
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) June 17, 2020
Gold Hoops. Highly significant 1956 #Olympic Gold Medal presented to @RealBillRussell as a member of the 1956 U.S. Men’s Basketball Team. One of the most important Olympic medals ever publicly offered with International bidding pushing final bid to $587,500. pic.twitter.com/DmxW8aFQJ3
— Hunt Auctions (@HuntAuctions) December 10, 2021