NEW YORK – He was one of the greatest players and a trailblazer during his time in the National Basketball Association, a towering figure in the league during his playing days and after.
Now the NBA is bestowing one of its highest honors that can be given to one player on the late Bill Russell.
The 11-time NBA champion and five-time MVP’s No. 6 will be retired league-wide and will not be issued by the again starting with the 2022-2023 season. Russell, who died at the age of 88 on July 31st, is the first player in NBA history to have this honor bestowed upon him.
Those players who currently wear No. 6 will be “grandfathered” in, which includes Bulls guard Alex Caruso, who started wearing the number after joining the team last season.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement released by the league. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
Along with number retirement in honor of Russell, each team will wear a patch on the right shoulder of their jersey in tribute to the Celtics legend this season. On each court in the league, a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 will be placed near the scorer’s table.
Russell wore that number for his entire 13-year NBA career in Boston from 1956-1969 in which he won a championship in all but two seasons. He was named an All-Star 12 times, was on 11 All-NBA teams, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
In 1966, Russell became the first Black coach of a major United States professional sports team with the Celtics and guided them to championships in 1968 and 1969.
Over the course of his life, he remained a champion for equality and civil rights in the country, which led to him being awarded the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.