The National Basketball Association (NBA) will retire the number 6 jersey worn by Boston Celtics great and civil rights icon Bill Russell, who died late last month, the league said on Thursday.
An 11-time NBA champion and the league’s first Black coach, Russell is the first player to have his number retired across all teams in the NBA. The decision parallels a move by the MLB to retire Jackie Robinson’s number 42 across for all teams l in 1997 for his bravery in desegregating baseball.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
A superstar in the 1950s and 1960s, Russell was selected as an All-Star a dozen times in his 13 years with the Celtics. He also won the leagues MVP award 5 times and still holds the record for most rebounds in postseason history. Beyond the court, Russell became one of the sport’s leading voices for civil rights and social justice in the United States.
The Celtics had previously retired his jersey in 1972, and the NBA had honored his dominance by naming the NBA Finals MVP award after him.
“Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout the course of his life helped to shape generations of players for the better and for that we are forever grateful,” National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement.
Starting next year no player will be allowed to wear number 6. Those who already wear the number, including Los Angeles Laker star Lebron James will be grandfathered in and allowed to still wear it.
Players will also wear a commemorative patch to honor Russell next year.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters (Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal)