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    NBA Legend, Bill Russell’s Jersey Number Retired Across Entire League

    For the first time in NBA history a jersey number is being retired across the entire NBA. As most basketball fans may know, Bill Russell one of the greatest basketball players of all time passed away on July 31.

    In the 1956 NBA draft, the St. Louis Hawks (now known as the Atlanta Hawks) drafted the 6’10 center as the second overall pick in the first round. Fortunately for the Boston Celtics,  they acquired the second pick from the Hawks as a result of trades. Bill Russell would soon lead them to multiple championships including one the upcoming season versus the Hawks.

    NBA Championships Won

    Bill Russell is an 11-time champion and currently holds the record for the most rings in NBA history. All 11 of Bill Russell’s rings were won with the Celtics with eight of these were back-to-back championship wins. He participated in 12 NBA Finals in a span of his 13-season career. The 1957-58 Finals vs the St. Louis Hawks was the only time Russell lost in the Finals.

    As aforementioned, Russell’s first championship came during his rookie year versus the team he was originally drafted to. The 1956-57 Celtics defeated the St. Louis Hawks in game 7. Two years later the 1958-59 Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers. The next season (1959-60) the St. Louis Hawks lost in game 7. During the 1960-61 Finals the two teams faced off again and the Celtics won the series 4-1. The 1961-62 Celtics then defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in game 7. The following season (1962-62) there was a rematch between the two teams ending in a 4-2 series win for Russell and the Celtics.

    During the 1963-64 Finals the Celtics played against a new opponent, the San Francisco Warriors beat them in Game 5 (4-1 series). The Los Angeles Lakers then received the same treatment, they lost 4-1 in the 1964-65 Finals. They then came back for another shot at the 1965-66 championship and put up more of a fight taking the Finals to game 7. However, the Celtics still walked away with the ring, which ended Russell’s consecutive NBA Finals wins. But not for very long, the 1967-68 Celtics ended up back in the Finals to face and defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2. Russell’s final championship came the following season (1968-69) in Game 7 against the Lakers again.

    Career Accomplishments

    After his 11th and final championship in 1969 Russell retired. Not only did Russell lead the Celtics to multiple championships, he walked away with many awards throughout his career as well. Russell averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game throughout his career. He is 2nd of all time in career rebounds with 21,620. He was a 12-time NBA All- Star from 1958-1969, winning the All-Star Game MVP in 1963. Russell was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player 5 times; 1958, 1961–1963 and 1965. The Finals MVP award was implemented during Russell’s final season, so the legend was not able to win any of those. However, in 2009 the award was renamed to honor the Celtics legend.

    Life After Playing

    Russell continued after his amazing career moving on to be a coach. His coaching career technically began in 1966 when he took over for Coach Red Auerbach. Russell became the first Black coach in the NBA as a player-coach.  He then coached for the Seattle SuperSonics (1973-77) and Sacramento Kings (1987-88). In 1975 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player and in 2021 he was inducted into the coaches Hall of Fame. Russell is a gift to the game of basketball as both a player and coach.

    Russell is also a gift to the African American community. He is a civil rights icon known for his activism. Russell paved the way illustrating that things are bigger than basketball. He fought against racial inequality on and off the court. For these reasons in 2011 President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As President Obama presented this award, he spoke of some of Russell’s acts of activism. These acts include marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and boycotting a game in Kentucky after his Black teammates were refused service in a coffee shop.

    A First For The League

    To honor the life and career of the great Bill Russell who passed away at the age of 88, the NBA permanently retired his jersey number 6 across the NBA. Those who currently wear the number 6 will be grandfathered and they can continue to wear it. Moving forward the number 6 will not be issued to any player by any NBA team.

    Usually, numbers are retired for specific teams but due to the success of Russell his number is being retired for all teams throughout the league. The Celtics retired his jersey number in 1972. This prevented the Celtics from issuing the number to any player.

    Not only will Bill Russell be the first to have his number retired across the whole NBA but he will be honored during the 2022-23 season. All players will wear a patch on their jerseys and all courts will have clover shaped logos with the number 6 on them.


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