The NBA is retiring Bill Russell‘s No. 6 across the entire league following the legend’s death late last month. Russell, who won 11 championships with the Celtics, was 88.
Players who currently wear No. 6, such as Lakers star LeBron James, a favorite of Russell’s, will be grandfathered in and still be allowed to wear the number. But teams will not grant the number to anyone new.
Along with that, all players will wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys next season, and every NBA court will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.
Russell becomes the first player in league history to have his jersey number retired for every team.
“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 died peacefully, according to a statement on his Twitter account. He won 11 championships with the Celtics from 1957-69, giving him more titles than any player in NBA history.
“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,” Silver said. “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.
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.
“For nearly 35 years since Bill completed his trailblazing career as the league’s first Black head coach, we were fortunate to see him at every major NBA event, including the NBA Finals, where he presented the Bill Russell Trophy to the Finals MVP.
“I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I often called him basketball’s Babe Ruth for how he transcended time. Bill was the ultimate winner and consummate teammate, and his influence on the NBA will be felt forever. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Jeannine, his family and his many friends.”
Known as a defensive stalwart, Russell was a 12-time All-Star. He averaged 15.1 points and an amazing 22.5 rebounds for his career.
He was then asked by retiring coach Red Auerbach to serve as player-coach ahead of the 1966-67 season, an invitation that Russell accepted.
In 1971, Russell joined ABC as a commentator for NBA telecasts. He later held the same role at WTBS. He also served as coach of the Kings and SuperSonics (now the Thunder).