Bill Russell, who passed away on July 31 at the age of 88, left behind an immense legacy with his 11 championship rings won with the Boston Celtics as well as his activism for civil rights. So inevitably, we wondered how the NBA was going to honor him, we now have the answer. Spoiler, the tribute is as unique as it is enormous.
This is Shams Charania from The Athletic who swayed the news this Thursday evening: the NBA has decided to withdraw number 6 – the one Bill Russell wore in his day – across the entire League. To put it another way, no player will be able to choose to take this number in the future, regardless of the franchise in which he plays. It is quite simply a first in the history of the NBA, which has nevertheless known several icons over the decades, including a certain number 23 from Chicago. We’ll save this debate for later, but if you needed more proof of the impact left by the legendary Celtics pivot on American basketball and even far beyond, here it is. Bill Russell thus integrates a very closed VIP circle in which there are only two other legends of American pro sport: Jackie Robinson and Wayne Gretzky. The former saw his number 42 retired by the Professional Baseball League (MLB) in 1997, while the latter was entitled to a similar tribute in 2000 when the NHL decided that the number 99 would never be worn again. of the professional hockey league. Still according to Shams Charania, all NBA players will also wear a patch in Billou’s honor on the right side of their jersey next season, and there will be a logo made up of a four-leaf clover and the number 6.
Bill Russell becomes the first player in NBA history to have his jersey retired across the league. All NBA players will also wear a patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys during 2022-23 season, and every arena’s court will display a clover-shaped logo with No. 6. https://t.co/bhNSldVKz0
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 11, 2022
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and his civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way. By retiring Bill Russell’s number 6 on every NBA team, his transcendent career will be recognized forever. »
– Adam Silver, NBA commissioner
With the number 6 which is now retired through all the teams of the Great League, one inevitably wonders what will happen with those who wear this number at the moment, like LeBron James for example (and 24 others). Will they have to change on the spot? According to insider Marc Stein, the answer is no. In effect, those who currently have this number can continue to wear it, but no player will now be able to take it. Translation, current NBA players who have the #6 are about to become the last to sport it. And in a few years, we won’t see this number at all on the floors of the League, unless LeBron plays until he is 75, of course.
“It is a monumental honor reserved for one of the greatest champions in history. Bill’s actions during his lifetime, both on and off the pitch, have shaped future generations of players for the better, and we are eternally grateful for that. We are proud to continue to celebrate his life and legacy alongside the League. »
– The director of the players’ association
Some legends have their number retired in the franchise from their exploits. Others in several teams, and we even know of one – rest his soul – who has two numbers retired in one and the same franchise. But so far, no one has had the great honor of having their number retired across the entire NBA. It is now done, and who better placed than Bill Russell to receive such a tribute.
Text sources: The Athletic, Marc Stein, NBA Communications
The NBA and NBPA announced today that they will honor the life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer Bill Russell by permanently retiring his uniform number, 6, throughout the league.
Full release: https://t.co/jFjZwKtiB2 pic.twitter.com/LdXT4Mf8W7
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) August 11, 2022