The NBA announced its decision to permanently retire Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey for all 30 teams in the league. It’s a touching gesture to the legendary Celtics big man, who passed away at the age of 88 on July 31, but it did leave fans wondering what would happen to players who are currently using the No. 6 uniform for their respective teams, most notably Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. According to NBA insider Marc Stein, players who currently wear No. 6 will be grandfathered. In other words, LeBron and Co. will be able to continue wearing the number with their current teams, but no new players will be able to select No. 6.
Players who currently wear No. 6 will be allowed to keep doing so, according to the league, but Russell’s jersey number will not be issued again by any NBA team to any player.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 11, 2022
So, there you have it, folks. LeBron James can continue rocking the No. 6 for the Lakers, if he so chooses, but once he moves on from the number, it will no longer be available for choosing.
The leaguewide retirement of a jersey number is the first of its kind for the NBA. No other player in league history has had their jersey number retired league-wide. The NFL has not ever retired a player’s number leaguewide, and MLB has only one wholly retired number; Jackie Robinson’s No. 42. The last MLB player to wear No. 42 was New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera.
James primarily wore the No. 23 jersey throughout the early part of his career before switching to No. 6 when he joined the Miami Heat. After returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the No. 23 came back with LeBron, and joined him when he made the move to the Lakers. He switched back to No. 6 ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season.
The NBA’s tribute to Russell is a special honor for one of the greatest players to ever suit up on the hardwood, and this gesture will immortalize his legendary jersey number.