Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey is being retired across the NBA, a first for the league.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced Thursday that the number worn by the 11-time champion, civil rights activist and person good enough to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach was being permanently retired by all 30 teams.
“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. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
Players who currently wear No. 6 — including the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James — may continue doing so. But the number cannot be issued again, the league said.
All NBA players will wear a patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys this season, the league said, and every NBA court will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.
The Boston Celtics have “separate and unique recognition for him on their uniforms” planned, the NBA said.
Russell died on July 31 at the age of 88. He was the most prolific winner in NBA history, an 11-time champion during a 13-year career — winning the last two of those titles as a player-coach — and the first Black coach in any of the major U.S. pro sports to win a championship.
He marched with Martin Luther King Jr., stood with Muhammad Ali and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
And having his number retired leaguewide puts him in a very exclusive club.
Major League Baseball permanently retired No. 42 — in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke the big league’s color barrier — with the understanding…