NBA Announces Special League-Wide Tribute Honoring Bill Russell

By Jason Hall

August 11, 2022

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
Photo: Getty Images

The National Basketball Association will retire No. 6 league-wide in honor of Basketball Hall of Famer and trailblazer Bill Russell.

"The life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer Bill Russell will be honored by retiring his uniform number, 6, throughout the league," the NBA announced on its verified Twitter account. "The iconic Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer will be the first player to have his number retired across the NBA."

Additionally, the Boston Celtics will honor their former player and coach with a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys and all NBA teams will display a No. 6 logo on their home courts and near the scorer's table during the 2022-23 season.

Russell's family announced his death in a statement hared on his verified Twitter account on July 31.

"Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side," the statement read. "Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon."

Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 of the franchise's NBA best 17 championships (tied with the Los Angeles Lakers) -- the most titles won by any player in league history -- which included two as a player-coach in 1968 and 1969 after becoming the first Black coach in North American professional sports in 1966.

Russell is considered to be the first Black player to achieve superstar success in the NBA as a five-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star and having led the NBA in rebounds four times and ranking second all-time in both total rebounds and rebounds per game.

Russell was also a two-time NCAA champion (1955, 1956) during his collegiate career at San Francisco and won a gold medal for Team U.S.A. in the 1956 Summer Olympics.

"Bill's wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers," the statement continued. "Perhaps you'll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded. And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill's uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle. That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6."

Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach, the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach, the FIBA Hall of Fame as a player and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments in basketball and during the civil rights movement by then-President Barack Obama in 2021.

"Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in an official statement on behalf of the league at the time of Russell's death. "The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics -- including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards -- only begin to tell the story of Bill's immense impact on our league and broader society."

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