Bill Russell’s legacy was bigger than anything he did on the basketball court. He was a civil rights leader who was a pioneer in the world of professional sports. As an NBA player, he was one of the dominant players to ever play the game and the greatest winner in the history of American team sports.
Nearly a week after his passing, the NBA decided to retire No. 6 throughout the league, the first player to have his number retired across the NBA in its 75-year history. The number will never again be issued by any team or any player, according to the NBA.
But, players who currently wear No. 6, such as LeBron James, will be grandfathered in. Meaning any player who is already wearing that number will be able to continue wearing it.
Throughout the 2022-23 season, every player will wear a patch on the right shoulder of their jersey and every court will show a clover-shaped logo with No. 6.
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From the NBA:
“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. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” said NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio. “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. We are proud to continue the celebration of his life and legacy alongside the league.”
Russell wore No. 6 every year for his 13-year NBA career from 1956 to 1969. As a Boston Celtic, Russell was a 12-time All-Star, a five-time MVP and an 11-time NBA champion. He led the league in rebounding four times and is second all-time in total rebounds only to Wilt Chamberlain with a total of more than 21,000.
In 1966, while he was still playing, the Celtics hired Russel as the first Black coach in NBA history. Two years later in 1968, Russell became the first African-American head coach to win a professional championship in the United States.
Since he’s the greatest winner in the sport, the NBA decided to name the Finals MVP after Russell in 2009, shortly after his wife, Marylin Nault, passed away.