In an NBA first, Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey is being retired all throughout the league. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced on Thursday that all 30 clubs will permanently retire the number worn by the 11-time champion, civil rights crusader, and individual deserving of induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
According to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, “Bill Russell’s extraordinary achievement on the court and groundbreaking civil rights work ought to be commemorated in a special and historic fashion.” Every NBA franchise permanently retiring Bill’s No. 6 assures that his extraordinary career will always be remembered.
Players will continue to wear No. 6 as they already do
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 emblem 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 honour” on their clothes.
NBA 11-time champion
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.
And having his number retired leaguewide puts him in a very exclusive club.
Major League Baseball permanently retired No. 42 — in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke the big league’s color barrier — with the understanding that those who were wearing that number could continue to do so. Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was the last in the majors to wear No. 42, doing so through his final season in 2013.
When Wayne Gretzky announced his retirement in 1999, the NHL declared that his No. 99 will be retired across the whole league in his honour.
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 athletics.”
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.
The NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio commented, “This is a tremendous distinction reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game.” “Bill helped change generations of players for the better during the course of his life by his acts both on and off the court, and for that, we are eternally thankful. Alongside the league, we are honoured to carry on the celebration of his life and contributions.
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 time 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.