NBA to retire Celtics legend Bill Russell's No. 6 jersey

NBA legend Bill Russell died in July of undisclosed causes. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 3 | NBA legend Bill Russell died in July of undisclosed causes. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The NBA will permanently retire Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell's No. 6 jersey throughout the league, the National Basketball Players Association and league announced. Russell died July 31 at 88 years old.

The NBA and NBPA announced Russell's number retirement Thursday. Russell will be the first player in history to have his jersey retired by the entire league. Players who already wear No. 6, like Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, will be allowed to keep wearing it, but no others will be issued the number.


"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 news release.

"Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill's transcendent career will always be recognized."

Russell won an NBA record 11 championships during his 13-year playing career. He entered the league as the No. 2 overall pick by the Celtics in the 1956 NBA Draft. The Monroe, La., native retired after he spent the 1968-69 with Boston.


He averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game over his decorated playing career. He was a 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, five-time NBA MVP and five-time rebounding champion.

Russell also coached for eight seasons for the Celtics, Seattle Sonics and Sacramento Kings. He led the team to NBA Finals titles in 1968 and 1969.

Russell also was known for his activism off the court, which included marching for civil rights alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 as a player and in 2021 as a coach. The NBA also plans to honor Russell throughout the season. The Celtics retired Russell's No. 6 in 1972.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

"This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game," NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a news release. "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."


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Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters stands with Andy Madadian (C) and La Toya Jackson (L) as Madadian is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020. Pointer, who performed alongside her sisters June and Ruth, died at the age of 74 on December 31 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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