The NBA and Players Association announced on Thursday that Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey will be permanently retired in honor of the indelible legacy the 11-time champion and civil rights pioneer left on the league. The late, great Russell becomes the first player in history to have his number retired across the NBA.
The NBA and NBPA announced today that they will honor the life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer Bill Russell by permanently retiring his uniform number, 6, throughout the league.
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) August 11, 2022
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” 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.”
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said. “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 will be the last NBA player to ever be issued a No. 6 uniform. Players already wearing No. 6, like Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, Washington Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis and Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso, will be grandfathered in.
The league will also pay homage to the Boston Celtics legend in the 2022-23 season with a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of all game-worn jerseys, as well as a clover-shaped No. 6 logo near the scorer’s table on every NBA court.
Russell peacefully passed away from natural causes on July 31st, surrounded by family. He was 88. In a statement announcing the death of “the most prolific winner in American sports history,” his family called for mourners to “find a new way to act or speak up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle.”
Bill Russell, the first Black head coach in NBA history, retired in 1969 after leading Boston to a second consecutive championship as player-coach. Frustrated by persistent racism he faced from Celtics fans during his playing career, Russell’s initial 1972 jersey retirement was closed to the public, per his request.
After the fraught relationship between Russell and Boston, the franchise and city, thawed in subsequent decades, he returned to TD Garden in 1999 for another jersey retirement ceremony, this one open to the public.