Throughout the entire NBA, the jersey No. 6 will one day belong only to one man.
The league announced on Thursday afternoon that it will retire No. 6 for all NBA teams in honor of Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics great who won 11 championships and was a civil rights pioneer. Russell died last month at 88, and the league’s tribute puts his legacy on par with Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in baseball.
Current players who wear No. 6, including the Lakers’ LeBron James, will be allowed to continue wearing the number. No new players will wear it until it is Russell’s alone. In the coming season, all players will wear a No. 6 patch on their right shoulder, and a No. 6 on a clover-shaped logo will appear on the sideline near the scorer’s table.
Russell’s jersey is the first to be retired throughout the league. It is befitting of a man who was the face of the league’s most dominant dynastic run in the 1950s and ’60s, who became the first Black head coach in a major American sports league and who campaigned for civil rights in an era of tremendous racial strife.
“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 in a league-issued statement. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”…