Bill Russell: Late Boston Celtics legend’s number six jersey retired by all NBA teams

Late Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell playing against the Cincinnati Royals in the 1960s
Bill Russell wore number six throughout his 13-year career with the Boston Celtics

The NBA will honour late 11-time champion Bill Russell by retiring his jersey number six across the league.

Boston Celtics legend Russell died at the age of 88 last month.

Current players who wear six, including LeBron James, will be able to continue to use the number but it will not be issued to new players.

Centre Russell won a record 11 NBA titles and five NBA Most Valuable Player awards during a 13-year career with the Celtics.

He also captained the USA to Olympic gold in 1956 and made a significant impact as the league’s first black head coach and an equal rights pioneer.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honoured in a unique and historic way,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“Permanently retiring his number six across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognised.”

Russell is the first player to have his jersey number retired throughout the NBA. The Celtics had already retired his number.

The NBA will also pay tribute to Russell throughout the 2022-23 season by players wearing a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys.

Each NBA court will also have a clover-shaped logo that includes the number six displayed on the sideline near the scorer’s table.

Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975, then again as a coach in 2021.

He becomes the third man to have their number retired league-wide in the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.

Major League Baseball retired Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson’s number 42 jersey throughout the league in 1997. That was to mark 50 years since Robinson broke the colour barrier that excluded black players from MLB teams.

Ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s number 99 jersey was retired by all NHL teams in 2000.