Bill Russell’s number 6 jersey is being retired across the NBA.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association made the announcement Thursday, permanently retiring the number worn by the 11-time champion, civil rights activist and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach.
Russell becomes the first player to have his number retired in the entire league.
“Bill Russell’s unprecedented 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 removing No. 6 from him on every NBA team ensures that Bill’s momentous career will always be recognized.”
Players currently wearing number 6, including LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, may continue to do so. But the number cannot be reissued, the league said.
All NBA players will wear a patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys this season, the league said, and each NBA court will display a No. 6 shamrock logo on the sideline near the scorer’s table. .
The Boston Celtics have planned a “unique and separate recognition for him on their uniforms,” the NBA said.
Russell died on July 31 at the age of 88.. He was the most prolific winner in NBA history, an 11-time champion during a 13-year career (he won the last two of those titles as a player-manager), and the first black coach in any of the major US professional sports. to win a championship
He marched with Martin Luther King Jr., stood up with Muhammad Ali, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
And having his number retired throughout the league puts him in a very exclusive club.
Major League Baseball permanently retired the number 42, in honor of Jackie Robinson who broke the MLB color barrier, with the understanding that those who wore that number could continue to do so. Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was the last in the majors to wear number 42, doing so during his final season in 2013.
The NHL, following Wayne Gretzky’s retirement in 1999, said his No. 99 would be retired from the entire league in honor of the sport’s all-time leading scorer.
Russell now gets the same treatment. It also seems fitting that he and Robinson, both barrier breakers, are linked again. Russell called Robinson a hero and once said that he “showed me the way to be a man in professional sports.”
Robinson clearly held Russell in high regard as well. Russell’s widow, Rachel Robinson, asked Russell to carry the casket at her husband’s funeral in 1972.
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play,” said NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio. “Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout his life helped improve generations of players and for that, we will be eternally grateful. We are proud to continue celebrating his life and legacy alongside the league.”
More than 250 players in NBA history have worn a No. 6 jersey, including 24 who did so in at least one game last season, most notably James, who has alternated between No. 6 and No. 23 throughout his career. his NBA career.
No one has worn No. 6 for the Celtics since Russell’s final season of 1968-69.
Russell is one of 12 enshrined players in the Basketball Hall of Fame who wore the number 6 at least at some point in their careers. The Others: Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Ben Wallace, Don Barksdale, Chuck Cooper, Larry Costello, Tom Gola, Cliff Hagan, Alex Hannum, Buddy Jeanette, and Neil Johnston.