The number “6” will forever belong to Bill Russell in the NBA.
Russell, who died July 31 at the age of 88, becomes the first player to have his number permanently retired across the NBA. Players who currently wear the No. 6, most notably LeBron James, may continue doing so, though the number will not be issued again to any player.
“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 press release. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
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.
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) August 11, 2022
Players who currently wear No. 6 will be allowed to keep doing so, according to the league, but Russell’s jersey number will not be issued again by any NBA team to any player.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 11, 2022
NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio added, “This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game. 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.”
Widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, Russell won 11 championships in his 13 seasons with the Celtics.
A five-time NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star, Russell cemented his status as one of the most dominant centers of all time, averaging 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds rebounds per game over the course of his career. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.