The NBA announced on Thursday they will permanently retire jersey No. 6 for all 30 teams in honor of the legendary Bill Russell, who passed away at age 88 on July 31. Players who are currently wearing No. 6 (like LeBron James) will be allowed to continue wearing it, but no new players can pick up the number.
Russell becomes the first player in NBA history to have his jersey number retired by the entire league, following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson whose No. 42 is retired throughout the MLB.
Russell had an outstanding 13-year career with the Boston Celtics from 1956-1969, winning 11 NBA Championships and cementing his legacy as one of the greatest centers in basketball history. Beyond that, Russell was a civil rights activist for his entire life, leaving a legacy far beyond his accomplishments on the hardwood.
In a press release, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke highly of Russell’s accomplishments on and off the court:
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way. Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Russell attended the University of San Francisco in the early 1950’s, winning championships in 1955 and 1956 before departing for the NBA. Outside of being on the last WCC team to win a basketball national championship, his legacy will live on in the conference’s “Russell rule”, which requires member institutions to include a candidate from a traditionally underrepresented group in their final pool of candidates.
Russell was an American icon, and his passing is a great reminder of how far we have come and how far we still have to go to ensure civil rights for everyone in this country.
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