In a first-of-its-kind move, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Associations (NBPA) have announced that the late Bill Russell’s number (6) will be retired leaguewide.
Russell, who passed away recently at the age of 88, had a profound impact on the game of basketball and was a champion of civil rights for black players inside and outside the league.
He spent his entire 13-year career wearing the number 6 for the Boston Celtics winning an unmatched 11 championships in the process while setting numerous records.
By succeeding Red Auerbach as the Celtics’ player-coach from 1966 to 1969, he became the first Black head coach in North American pro sports history.
NBA retiring Bill Russell’s number throughout the league is their way of honouring his contributions to the game of basketball.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honoured in a unique and historic way,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
No player in the history of the game has had their number retired throughout the league, including the great Michael Jordan.
The number retirement comes into effect immediately with the exemptions for the players who already wear No. 6 for their teams, a list that includes LeBron James of the LA Lakers. Once they are vacated, no team will issue the number to any new player.
Celtics, the team he played for, will honour him separately when the league’s next season begins.
The NBA has already named the Finals MVP Award after him since 2009.