(UPI) -- On his way to a rally to talk up healthcare reform, President Barack Obama made a surprise stop in Boston's City Hall Plaza to view the statue of Celtics great Bill Russell, due to be unveiled Friday.
"It's a sight to see!" the president teased, after viewing the statue, still shrouded in tents. "But you don't get to see it before Friday."
Russell, who led the Celtics to 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons, along with an Olympic gold medal and two college titles, was on hand to see the statue with the president. Russell rode in the presidential limo to Faneuil Hall, where Obama was set to address a crowd about the Affordable Care Act.
In 2011, Obama honored William Felton "Bill" Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to a civilian.
"I hope that one day in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man," he said at the ceremony.
The statue to Russell, who is widely considered Boston's greatest athlete, is one that is long overdue. While the Bruins' Bobby Orr and Red Sox Ted Williams have been grandly honored, Boston's complicated racial history meant Russell's recognition took longer.
The project, designed by Ann Hirsch, features a sculpture of Russell along with 11 elements to represent each of his 11 NBA championship rings.