NBA retire number 6 jersey to 'honour the life and legacy' of Bill Russell

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Bill Russell is the most successful player in NBA history. He won a record 11 championships during his playing career and became the first black coach in the NBA and the first to win a title. His work away from basketball was even more outstanding, which speaks volumes considering his achievements on the court. Russell was a key figure in the civil rights movement.

He peacefully passed away in July 2022 at the age of 88 and tributes have poured in for the legendary center.

NBA teams, legends, current players and former Presidents of the United States have paid tribute to the Boston Celtics icon. Barack Obama wrote on Twitter: "Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher - both as a player and as a person." He added: "Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer-marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali. "For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what's right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life. "Michelle and I send our love to Bill's family, and everyone who admired him."

As a result, some greats of the game were pushing for Russell's number 6 jersey to be retired around the league.

His number is unsurprisingly retired by the Celtics, but was worn around the league by several players last season, most notably by LeBron James.

Having won 11 championships in 13 years as a Celtic, Russell is the greatest winner in NBA history, and one of the best players of all time, Magic Johnson, previously sent a message to commissioner Adam Silver: retire Russell's number.

Magic tweeted earlier this month: "Commissioner Adam Silver should retire number 6 across the @NBA in honor of Bill Russell's legacy!"

And Adam Silver has since done just that - announcing on August 11 that the number would no longer be worn throughout the NBA.

An NBA statement read: 'The National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Basketball Players Association (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. The iconic Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer will be the first player to have his number retired across the NBA.'

Would Russell have approved of this?

When his jersey was retired by Boston in 1972, the former center requested the ceremony be done in private due to the issues he had with racists in the city, something that added hostility to what should have been a beautiful relationship. He was reluctant to celebrate his own accomplishments and would probably not back this movement.

Has this been done before?

In the NBA. No. It has not. This is the first time.

Number 42 is retired across Major League Baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson and number 99 is retired across the National Hockey League for Wayne Gretzky. This is as close as it gets.

This is an incredible thing to do, and Bill Russell is extremely deserving of something so amazing.

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