The NBA announced on Thursday afternoon that Bill Russell's No. 6 jersey will officially be retired across the league ahead of the 2022-23 season. This marks the first time in league history that a player's number has been universally retired by every team, which speaks to the impact of Russell both on and off the court.
While this new rule will start for this upcoming season, players who are currently wearing the No. 6 jersey will be grandfathered in, but the jersey may not be issued to any future players. Among the list of players who will be the last to wear the No. 6 jersey in the NBA are LeBron James, Lou Williams, Quentin Grimes, Bryn Forbes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
"Bill Russell's unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press release. "Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill's transcendent career will always be recognized."
Russell Boston Celtics, two of which he earned as a player-coach for the team. Russell was the first Black head coach in any major U.S. professional sport and won back-to-back titles in 1968 and 1969 during his tenure. He racked up five MVP awards over his 13 seasons in the league, was a 12-time All-Star, and was named to 11 All-NBA teams.at 88 years old but left a monumental legacy as a basketball player and civil rights activist. He won 11 championships with the
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Just as impactful as Russell was on the court, his presence in the Black community was just as strong, as the Celtics legend continuously fought for racial justice in America over the course of his career and after he was done playing. He led a player protest as a member of the Celtics when several Black teammates where refused service at a coffee shop in Lexington, Kentucky. He marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 at the March on Washington, and stood in support of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali after he refused to be drafted for the Vietnam war which led to him being stripped of his boxing titles. For all of his social justice work, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by former president Barack Obama.
In addition to retiring Russell's jersey number across the league, the NBA also plans to add commemorative patches on the right shoulder of each NBA jersey for the 2022-23 season, and every court will have a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 inside of it on the sideline.