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Boston City Hall Plaza chosen for Russell statue

Boston's City Hall Plaza has been chosen as the site for a proposed statue of Celtics basketball legend Bill Russell, Boston Mayor Tom Menino and other officials announced Monday.

Three artists were named as finalists to design the statue. They will present their designs to Russell himself and the Bill Russell Legacy Committee in the fall.

"We are proud to play a role in paying tribute to one of the greatest champions the sports world has ever seen," said Stephen Pagliuca, Celtics co-owner and president of the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation.

The committee said the site was chosen because of its location near the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall and other tourist attractions. Officials said Russell, 77, and the committee approved the site for the statute to commemorate the former Celtic as a sports champion, human rights leader and youth mentoring advocate.

The committee said it will seek private donations for the statue and will launch a public fundraising campaign in the fall to coincide with the selection of the winning design.

Russell led the Celtics to 11 league championships in 13 seasons.

President Barack Obama suggested Boston build a statue of Russell when he awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom in February. Obama said he hoped one day children would look up to a statue "built not only to Bill Russell the player but Bill Russell the man."

The announcement of the statue's site is another episode in the once-rocky relationship between Russell and the city of Boston. During his time with the Celtics, the West Monroe, La.-born Russell often complained about the city's treatment of people of color and once called the city a "flea market of racism."

When the Celtics retired his No. 6 jersey in 1972, Russell refused to attend the ceremony. But in recent years, Russell has visited Boston and has praised the city for changing. In 1999, Russell attended a ceremony by the Celtics to re-retire his jersey and received a long standing ovation that brought him to tears.