In the wake of Russell’s death in July, the NBA announced this week that his No.6 jersey would be permanently retired throughout the league.
Russell, 88, died on July 31. Between 1956 and 1969, he played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In his 13-year career, he was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and 12-time NBA All-Star.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserves to be honored in a unique and historic way,” the NBA’s president declared.
“Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized,” concluded Silver.
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” CEO Tamika Tremaglio says.
And also include, “Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout 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,”
Russell’s number is being retired, and the league also plans to honor him with a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of the teams’ jerseys. At the same time, all arenas will have a clover-shaped logo near the scorer’s table with No. 6.
During his career, Russell achieved the highest level of success in NBA history and was the first Black head coach in the league.
The decision to forever retire his number follows in the footsteps of Major League Baseball, the league that retired the number of trailblazer Jackie Robinson in 1997.
There was no denying Russell’s influence on the court, but he was equally respected outside of basketball.
A leading civil rights activist, he marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. 1963 marched alongside King in 1963, condemned racial segregation, and urged Muhammad Ali not to be drafted into Vietnam.
“He became a role model when I realized some of the things that scared me and bothered me about race relations in America were things that he addressed,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday.
During the 1950s, Russell accused the largely-white NBA of excluding Black players and became part of the league’s all-Black starting lineup in 1964.
Even though he achieved much success on the court, Russell suffered racist insults as a player while his family faced threats, break-ins, and vandalism.
“He inspired me to be a better man by handling situations … without giving in to all of the anger and rage that he must have felt,” Abdul-Jabbar recalled. “Bill showed the world what class was all about.”
Tribute to Bill Rusell, 11-time NBA champion.