The NBA announced that Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey will be retired throughout the league. The 11-time champion with the Boston Celtics and civil rights pioneer died on July 31 at the age of 88, leaving behind one of the greatest legacies ever for an athlete.
Russell wore the No. 6 throughout his entire 13-season career from 1956-69, but it will not be issued again by any NBA team to any player in a really nice gesture by the league that had never previously been done before.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” said NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio. “Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout the course of his life helped to shape generations of players for the better and for that, we are forever grateful. We are proud to continue the celebration of his life and legacy alongside the league.”
Players who currently wear No. 6 will be grandfathered, which includes Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. He switched to 6 last offseason after previously wearing 23.
This is similar to when Major League Baseball decided to retire No. 42 leaguewide in honor of Jackie Robinson in 1997, but players like New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera who already wore it got to keep the number.
In addition to James, other current NBA players wearing 6 include Alex Caruso, Lou Williams, Lance Stephenson, Kristaps Porzingis, Quentin Grimes Hamidou Diallo, Jalen McDaniels, Jordan McLaughlin, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kenyon Martin Jr.
In light of the NBA’s announcement, it will be interesting to see if James or any of the others voluntarily choose to change their numbers. James’ previous No. 23 is still available for L.A. with Anthony Davis choosing to keep his No. 3. Regardless though, James will be the last Lakers player to ever wear No. 6.
One person who is happy with this decision by the NBA is Magic Johnson as the Lakers legend previously lobbied for the league to retire No. 6 in Russell’s honor.
NBA also to honor Russell by wearing commemorative patches
In addition to retiring Russell’s number, the NBA also announced a number of other ways they will pay tribute to the legend in 2022-23, including all players wearing a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys and every NBA court displaying a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.
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