The world of sports lost a legend last month when Boston Celtics icon Bill Russell passed away at the age of 88. Russell’s importance extends far beyond the game of basketball, as the greatest champion in league history was an icon in the civil rights movement. His death led to a number of tributes from current and former players, with some — including Magic Johnson — calling on the league to retire his number, 6.
On Thursday afternoon, the NBA announced that they will do just that. The league put out a statement, featuring words from both commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA head Tamika Tremaglio, confirming that Russell’s number will never be worn again, outside of the current players who wear six and will be grandfathered.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” Silver said. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” Tremaglio said. “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.”
Last season, 25 players wore the number, including LeBron James. Major League Baseball did something similar in 1997, when it announced that no player will ever wear Jackie Robinson’s 42 again.
This will not be the only way that the league honors Russell, as the statement announced that “all NBA players will wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys, and every NBA court will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.”