The NBA is honoring the life and legacy of the late Bill Russell by retiring his jersey No. 6 leaguewide.
The Hall of Fame center and social-justice activist died on July 31 at age 88.
Russell is the first player to have his uniform number retired across the league. Major League Baseball retired trailblazer Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in 1997.
“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 the No. 6 will be grandfathered in. Among current players wearing the number are LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kristaps Porzingis of the Washington Wizards.
The league and the players association also announced Thursday that players will also wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys during the 2022-2023 season, and every NBA court will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline.
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said. “Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout the course of his life helped to shape generations of players for the better and for that, we are forever grateful. We are proud to continue the celebration of his life and legacy alongside the league.”
A five-time NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star, Russell won a record 11 NBA titles as a player with the Boston Celtics. He also was the first Black head coach in North American professional sports history and helped the club win two more titles.
A member of the NBA’s 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversary teams, Russell also was well known for his commitment to social justice. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.
Russell averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds over 13 seasons (1956-69) with the Celtics. He was first inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1975, then again as a coach in 2021. Boston retired his No. 6 jersey in 1972.