NBA set to retire Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey league-wide

-Photo courtesy of Bill Russel's No. 6 will be retired league-wide.

NBA set to retire Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey league-wide
August 18
09:08 2022

Eleven-time NBA champion and all-time great Bill Russell passed away on July 31 of this year. To honor his legacy and greatness, the NBA will permanently retire his jersey number league-wide. Russell will be the first player in the history of the association to have his number retired.

Russell is widely regarded as the ultimate winner in all of team sports. He was not only a champion on the court, he was an outspoken activist for the civil rights of African Americans during the 50s and 60s.  

“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 joins an elite company that is reserved for only the best of the best. Jackie Robinson (No. 42 in the MLB) and Wayne Gretzky (No. 99 in the NHL) are the only other two numbers that have been retired by major professional sports leagues here in the United States.  

There are several current players, most notably LeBron James, that wear the No. 6 jersey number in the NBA and those players will be grandfathered in and can choose to wear that number if they please.

Along with retiring Russell’s number, the NBA also plans to honor the five-time MVP by having a commemorative patch displayed on the right shoulder of all the teams’ jerseys. Also, all of the teams’ courts will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.

Russell was the ultimate winner during his playing days. Not only did his Celtic teams win 11 championships, they won eight in a row during that span, which will never be duplicated in the league ever again. His winning ways prompted the NBA to rename the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his honor. He has even been present to give the winner the award multiple times throughout the years.  

There was a lot that Russell had to endure during his playing days in Boston. It’s no secret that the town of Boston had their racial issues during the 50s and 60s. I have heard stories about Russell being called racial slurs and receiving death threats following losses while playing in Boston. His home was even broken into and vandalized with racial epithets spray-painted on the wall.  

He had some animosity toward the city of Boston for the terrible things he had to go through while playing in the city. It was so bad that he refused to have his jersey retired in front of Boston fans, instead choosing to have a private retirement ceremony with only certain individuals within the organization.

It’s hard to imagine a player that won at such a high level having to endure that level of racism in his own city. That shows that the civil rights movement and racist history of this country is not that long ago.  

Even with his success on the court, I think Russell was more impactful off the court. His work during the civil rights movement was very impactful. Russell, along with Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jim Brown and others, had a tremendous impact on the movement during the early part of the 60s. Russell even received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 from President Barack Obama.  

“He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow,” Obama said in 2011, “and I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only of Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.”

You have to love a person like Bill Russell because he was the type who preferred to walk the walk instead of talking the talk, so to speak. I think this move by Adam Silver to retire the jersey of Russell league-wide was a good one.  

The NBA continues to make the right moves time and time again. It seems they just have the pulse of what the public wants when it comes to rules, social justice issues and honoring their legends. There are some things the NBA can teach other leagues about honoring their legends. 

R.I.P. Bill Russell. You will never be forgotten.

About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors