The NBA and NBA Players Association announced Thursday they will honor the life and legacy of Russell, an 11-time champion and civil rights trailblazer, by retiring his No. 6 across the league.
“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 statement. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
Russell is the first player ever to have his uniform number retired across the NBA.
The number will not be issued again by any NBA team to any player, but those players currently wearing No. 6 will be grandfathered.
Also, according to Thursday’s press release, all NBA players will wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys throughout the 2022-23 season. And every NBA court will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 along the sideline near the scorer’s table.
The Celtics’ uniforms this season will feature a separate and unique recognition for Russell.
Russell spent his entire 13-year career (1956-69) with Boston, earning five MVP Awards, 12 All-Star selections and 11 All-NBA Team honors. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, after the Celtics retired his number in 1972.
Russell will be remembered as much for his off-court impact, though. Not only was he the first Black head coach in major United States professional sports, upon being hired by the Celtics for the role in 1966. He also was at the forefront of the country’s civil rights movement and in 2011 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President Barack Obama.
Russell died July 31 at age 88.