The NBA recently decided to retire the number 6 to honor the late Bill Russell. The league therefore intends to pay tribute to one of the greatest players in its history, for his numerous achievements on the court, distinguished by both his 11 rings, as well as for his social commitment. Players like LeBron James may continue to wear this number, but no one in any franchise will choose 6 as their new jersey number.
“Bill’s unprecedented success as a player and activist for social rights deserves special recognition,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “Retiring 6 consistently and across all franchises ensures that Russell’s value will always be recognized.”
On the other hand, this year all players will wear a patch in honor of Bill on their right shoulder, and all courts will sport a picture of a cleaver with the number 6 next to the scoreboard. Boston, meanwhile, plans to pay special tribute to the uniform.
In doing so, Russell became the first player to have his number retired by every team in the league, a feat unprecedented in basketball history and second only to two in American sports history (Jackie Robinson’s 42 in the MLB and Wayne Gretzky’s 99 in the NHL). The NBA thus ensures that his legacy will always be remembered, something that, officially, the Celtics have already taken care of, as no player in the franchise has used the 6 since Russell retired in 1969.
(Cover photo: Mansoor Ahmed/Getty Images)