Jayen Brown turns to Celtics great Bill Russell when the balance of basketball and advocacy gets tough


Star Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown has not always found balancing his interests in off-court advocacy with the rigors of an NBA season easy, but he only has to look at his own jersey for inspiration in those moments.

Brown is of course not basking in his own glory but rather turning to the example of the man represented by the No. 6 patch on his and every Celtics jersey this season, emblematic of Celtics and civil rights icon Bill Russell after he passed this past July. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Slam's Deyscha Smith, the Georgia native explained his connection to Russell's memory.

"To be able to have this six on (my) jersey means the world to me," shared Brown.

"At times when I get overwhelmed, where my spirit is just being aggravated, or I just feel weak, I just remind myself that I have one of the greatest examples, Bill Russell," added the Cal-Berkeley alum, a school just across the Bay from Russell's hometown of Oakland.

Brown reflected on how Russell was "able to deal with all the controversy that he dealt with when he was here," an aspect of the Boston legend's tenure in the city not cited as often as the more palatable aspects of his winning with the team.

"Today, you would think the way people speak on his name was that he was welcomed and he was accepted during the time that he was standing up for what he believed in," recounted the Celtics wing.

"That wasn't the case. People trying to make it seem like it was, in Boston."

"How things can change-sometimes you're not always gonna be accepted for what you think or what you believe," he continued, "but hopefully, if people know the essence of your heart and your intentions, with time it'll equalize itself out."

Brown and Russell both have used their platform for immense good, and have also courted intense criticism for things they each said that they would later seem to regret.

Criticism that has also at times also crossed lines for both in what has been expected of them in terms of a player, an activist, and a person. But despite that, Brown has no ill will towards the city he calls home.

"There's misconceptions in Boston," explained Brown. "There's a lot of Bostonians who have lived there, who are great people, into the community, who devoted their (lives) to some of the issues"

"Somebody's got to say something," added the Celtics star.

Trying to walk the knife's edge of advocacy in the public eye on a platform created by elite athleticism and finely-honed skills that seem largely divorced in the eyes of the casual fan from the issues close to Brown's heart has not always been an easy task for the Marietta native.

But he has had a path blazed in front of him to make that knife's edge just a bit wider than it was when Russell was brave enough to walk it - and the Boston great's example to draw on when the road feels especially rough.

Listen to the "Celtics Lab" podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire


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