Bill Russell’s No. 6 to be retired across NBA following legend’s death last month

The NBA will honor the legacy of Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell by retiring his No. 6 jersey for all 30 teams, the league and National Basketball Players Association announced Thursday.

Russell is the first player in NBA history to have his jersey retired league-wide.

In addition to the number being retired, all NBA players will wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys during the 2022-23 season, and each seat will have a shamrock-shaped logo with Russell’s No. 6 on the sideline near the show scorer table .

“Bill Russell’s unprecedented on-court success and pioneering civil rights activism deserve a unique and historic tribute,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “The permanent retirement of his No. 6 on all NBA teams ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

As of the 2022–23 season, no NBA team may assign the number 6 to a player. Players who currently wear the number 6 – like Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James – can continue to do so. According to Basketball Reference, 25 players including James, Kristaps Porzingis, Alex Caruso, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams wore the No. 6 last season.

The league said plans for the Celtics, where Russell played all 13 years of his career, are still being finalized in honor of Russell and will be announced at a later date. Boston plans to have “separate and unique recognition” for Russell on its uniforms.

Earlier, the NBA recognized Russell’s merits by naming the Finals MVP award in his honor in 2009.

“This is a significant honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. “Bill’s actions on and off the pitch throughout his life have helped shape generations of players for the better and for that we are forever grateful. We are proud to continue celebrating his life and legacy alongside the league.”

Russell, an 11-time NBA champion, died on July 31 at the age of 88.

During his 13-year playing career, Russell was named an NBA MVP five times and was an All-NBA selection 11 times. He was named player-coach of the Celtics in 1966, became the first black head coach in American professional sports, and led Boston to back-to-back championships in 1968 and 1969.

Russell remains second all-time in NBA history for rebounds (21,620) and rebounds per game (22.5). He is also the all-time all-time rebounder in NBA postseason history with 4,104 total boards and 24.9 rebounds per game.

The ultimate winner, Russell led San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA titles before making the leap to the NBA and winning a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.

Russell was also known for his civil rights work. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr., stood alongside Muhammad Ali and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

With his number retired league-wide, Russell belongs to a very exclusive club.

Major League Baseball permanently retired the #42 in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke the Big League color barrier, with the understanding that those who wore the number could continue to do so. The New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera was the last major to wear the No. 42, in his final season in 2013.

The NHL said after Wayne Gretzky’s retirement in 1999 that his No. 99 would be retired leaguewide in honor of the sport’s all-time frontrunner.

In NBA history, more than 250 players have worn a number 6 jersey, and Russell is one of 12 players enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame who wore the number 6 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.

Nobody has worn the number 6 for the Celtics since Russell’s last season in 1968-69.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Bill Russell’s No. 6 to be retired across NBA following legend’s death last month

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