Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Bill Russell received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS on Wednesday night, but it was only part of a two-time special. 

Before he was called into the stage, Kobe Bryant delivered a compelling introduction that's worthy of Russell's name and legacy. The former Los Angeles star highlighted Bill's contributions for the African-American athletes. 

Bryant called Russell the "greatest winner that sports have ever known." He added that "One thing I learned about Bill is how he drew inspiration from his grandfather." "A man has to draw a line within himself that he will not allow any man to cross." 

His grandfather's influence resonated with Russell's motto, "you disrespect the line, you disrespect me." More than 50 years later, "both their mottos resonate powerfully," quipped the emotional Bryant. 

Russell, 85, is the 27th winner of the prestigious award. He's the first NBA player to earn the plaque. According to ESPYS, the distinction recognizes those who reflect in spirit, strength, and courage of the late tennis legend, Arthur Ashe. 

Ashe was a vocal human rights champion for over three decades.  Past awardees include former South African president, Nelson Mandela, boxing icon, Muhammad Ali, and NC State coach Jimmy Valvano. 

Aside from Kobe Bryant, actor Samuel L. Jackson, former POTUS Barack Obama, and NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar honored Russel on a featured video.  

The 85-year-old didn't speak when he won the award. Attendees gave him a standing ovation at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. 

Russel has always been known for his participation in the civil rights movement.  He was in the March on Washington in 1963 and later broke barriers by becoming the first black coach in NBA history in 1966.

Russell, an 11-time NBA champion and five-time NBA MVP, was honored by Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. He became an essential member of the civil rights movement that stood up for the dignity of African-American athletes. 

The Boston Celtics Hall of Famer achieved superstar status in the 1950s and 60s while leading his team to 11 championships. 

Kobe finished by telling that "Bill's dissatisfaction with the injustices of the world never changed, but he has led the way that inspires us."  He added that the next generation should take the example of Bill Russel's compassion for equal rights.