Aug 11, 2022 - Sports

NBA to retire Bill Russell's No. 6 jersey number

Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in an NBA game from 1964.
Bill Russell faces off against Wilt Chamberlain in a 1964 playoff game. Photo: Bob Campbell/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The NBA announced Thursday it would permanently retire the No. 6 jersey number worn by the late legend Bill Russell, who passed away last month.

Why it matters: This is the first time that the NBA has retired a player's number across the entire league, the NBA said.

  • The league's decision to retire Russell's jersey means teams will no longer issue No. 6 to players.
  • Any players wearing the number now — like LeBron James, who wears No. 6 for the Los Angeles Lakers — will be grandfathered in, the NBA said.

What they're saying: “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.

  • “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

The big picture: Russell passed away in July and immediately garnered praise from President Biden and former President Barack Obama, among others.

  • The Boston Celtics legend has a stacked professional basketball resume, including a record 11 NBA titles and five MVP awards.
  • He was also the first Black coach in all major American professional sports and the only player-coach to win an NBA title.

Go deeper ... Remembering NBA legend and civil rights icon Bill Russell

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