A legendary lineup of sports royalty and political powerhouses honored Celtics legend Bill Russell as a basketball player, man and civil rights leader who forged a path into sports and national lore and, ultimately, to the south side of City Hall Plaza, where a statue was unveiled yesterday commemorating the towering Hall of Famer.

“This is a guy we can all be proud of,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a downtown reception for the 6-foot-9 Russell. “When he played basketball in Boston, it wasn’t easy being a black man in Boston, let me tell ya. It’s a much different city today than when Bill Russell played ... But Bill Russell made it and broke that line.

“He was an all-star off the court.”

The reception drew a star-studded field, including NBA legends Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and Elgin Baylor, outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern and NFL great Jim Brown, as well as political heavy hitters such as U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey and Gov. Deval Patrick.