The NBA is doing right by one of its most pioneering athletes.
Bill Russell passed away a little over a week ago, and the sports world has been reeling since. So now, as a sign of respect, the NBA has gracefully retired his number 6 across the entire league.
Of course, numbers on singular teams have been retired, but this marks the first time the ruling has been spread out among all 30 teams.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver even released a statement on the meaning behind the gesture, which points to Russell’s greatness.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserves to be honored in a unique and historic way,” Silver said in a statement. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
The Hall of Famer played his entire 13-season career with the Boston Celtics and brought Beantown 11 championship rings. Then, once he retired in 1969, the winning nature in Boston continued when he became the team’s player-coach and won two more consecutive NBA Championships. So it’s only fitting that TD Garden will include its own “separate and unique recognition” on the team’s jerseys.
Other league-wide decisions have been made to honor him, like a special patch on the right shoulder of all NBA players’ jerseys through the 2022-23 season and a shamrock-shaped logo on the court’s sideline by the scorer’s table.
The decision won’t cause any friction for players still rocking the 6 –like LeBron James, Kristaps Porzingis, Alex Caruso, and Montrezl Harrell– who are permitted to continue using the number, but newcomers aren’t allowed.
Here’s how NBA Twitter reacted to Russell’s death late last month: