The NBA and National Basketball Players Association on Thursday announced they have permanently retired Bill Russell’s No. 6 throughout the league to “honor the life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer,” both sides said in a news release.
Russell is the first NBA player to have his number retired across the league. Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in Major League Baseball and Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 in the NHL are also retired across their respective leagues.
“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.”
Silver informed Russell’s family of the honor at a private memorial service in Seattle on Thursday. Russell died on July 31 at 88 years old and is remembered for his on-court success and off-court pursuit of racial and social justice.
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. “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."
Russell wore No. 6 for his entire 13-year career with the Boston Celtics and the number will never be issued by an NBA team to any player. Those who currently wear No. 6, such as Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, will be grandfathered and allowed to continue wearing the number.
Also this season, “all NBA players will wear a commemorative (Russell) 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," according to the league and NBPA.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bill Russell's No. 6 will be permanently retired across league, NBA says