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Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion, will get his No. 6 jersey retired across the league. Photo Credit: Mike Lawrie / Getty Images.
Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion, will get his No. 6 jersey retired across the league. Photo Credit: Mike Lawrie / Getty Images.

Bill Russell's No. 6 jersey to be retired league wide

NBA honored Bill Russell by retiring his No. 6 jersey across the NBA.

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Bill Russell has become the first player in NBA history to have his jersey retired league-wide.

After 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell's death on July 31, 2022, the entire National Basketball Association (NBA) will honor his legacy by retiring his No. 6 jersey. No player will ever wear the number again. Yet, players who currently wear No. 6 may continue to. 

The NBA will continue to honor Russell by adding a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of all NBA player's jerseys during the 2022-23 season. Every court will also display a shamrock-shaped logo with Russell's No. 6 beside the scorer's table.

"This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions ever to play the game," NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. "Bill's actions on and off the court throughout his life helped to shape generations of players for the better, and for that, we are forever grateful. We are proud to continue celebrating his life and legacy alongside the league."

Russell played 13 consecutive years for the Boston Celtics (1956-1969) and coached them for three straight years (1966-1969). Yet off the court, he was a civil rights activist. He took part in Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963, supported Muhammad Ali at the Cleveland Summit and in 1961, took part in a boycott by Celtics players due to the reason that his teammates, Sam Jones and Thomas Sanders, were denied service at a local coffee shop because of their race.

After his passing last month, many took to social media to highlight Russell’s legacy. 

"Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher -- both as a player and as a person," Barack Obama said in a statement on Twitter. "I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life. Michelle and I send our love to Bill's family and everyone who admired him."

"He was one of the first athletes on the front line fighting for social justice, equity, equality, and civil rights. That’s why I admired and loved him so much. Over the course of our friendship, he always reminded me about making things better in the Black community,” Earvin Magic Johnson said in a statement on Twitter.

"Rest in peace Bill Russell you were everything we all aspired to be, your winning spirit will live forever my friend. Thank you for your words of wisdom," Isiah Thomas said in a statement on Twitter. 

Bill Russell’s No. 6 will become the third retired league wide number, joining Jackie Robinson's No. 42 in baseball and Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 in hockey.

“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.”

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