For the first time in NBA, Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey is being retired throughout the league.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced on Thursday that all 30 clubs would permanently retire the number worn by the 11-time champion, civil rights activist, and individual deserving of induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, while announcing the retirement of Bill’s Jersey, said “Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way. Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers is one player who now wears No. 6, and he is allowed to keep doing so. The league stated that the number cannot be granted once again.
This season, according to the NBA, every player will wear a patch on their right jersey shoulder, and every NBA court will include a clover-shaped logo with the number 6 on the sideline close to the scorer’s table.
According to the NBA, the Boston Celtics will give him “distinct and special honor” on their clothes.
Who was Bill Russell?
On July 31, Russell passed away at the age of 88. He won 11 championships over the course of a 13-year career, making him the most successful player in NBA history. He was also the first Black coach to win a championship in any of the major U.S. pro sports.
In addition to standing beside Muhammad Ali during a march, he also got the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. He joins a very elite club as well after having his number retired across the league.
In recognition of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in the major leagues, Major League Baseball permanently retired No. 42, with the understanding that those who wore it might do so indefinitely. The final player in the majors to do so was Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees, who wore it throughout his final campaign in 2013.
When Wayne Gretzky announced his retirement in 1999, the NHL declared that his No. 99 will be retired throughout the whole league in his honor.
Russell is now given the same treatment. It also seems appropriate that he and Robinson, who are both barrier-busters, are connected once more. Robinson was hailed as a hero by Russell, who reportedly remarked that “he showed me the way to be a man in professional sports.”
Robinson undoubtedly thought highly of Russell as well. Russell accepted Rachel Robinson’s request to serve as a pallbearer at her husband’s funeral in 1972.
NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game. 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.”
More than 250 players have worn the No. 6 jersey in NBA history, with 24 of them doing so at least once last year. Most notably, James, who has rotated between the Nos. 6 and 23 throughout his career. Since Russell’s final season with the Celtics in 1968–1969, no one has donned No. 6.
One of the 12 players now inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame who donned No. 6 at some point throughout their careers is Russell. The others are Cliff Hagan, Alex Hannum, Buddy Jeanette, Neil Johnston, Don Barksdale, Chuck Cooper, Larry Costello, Patrick Ewing, Julius Erving, and Patrick Ewing.