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NBA unveils No.6 honour to Boston’s Bill Russell

The NBA has announced that it will retire Bill Russell’s No.6 league-wide, and every player will wear a black No.6 patch on his jersey in appreciation.

September 27, 2022
By AAP
27 September 2022

As the longest-tenured player at the Celtics, Marcus Smart has been in Boston long enough to appreciate what Bill Russell meant to the team, the city and the country.

“We’ve heard things like ‘pioneer, trailblazer,'” Smart said on Monday while wearing a patch honouring the Celtics Hall of Famer who died this summer.

“To mention, you know, Bill Russell and the impact that he brought to this game is undeniable.”

NBA great Bill Russell at a news conference as he learns the most valuable player award for the NBA was renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in 2009. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)

The centrepiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships in 13 years, Russell is being honoured this season not just for his unmatched success on the court but for a lifetime commitment to civil rights.

The NBA has announced it will retire his No.6 league-wide, and every player will wear a black No.6 patch on his jersey.

The Celtics have other tributes planned, with two nights set aside to honour Russell’s legacy, including the October 18 opener. They have painted the No.6 in the free throw lane.

“The presence that Bill Russell had – not only on the court, but in the community – it’s something that will always be present, and he’ll always have a legacy because of that,” Celtics forward Grant Williams said.

“I’m fortunate to be playing for this organisation.”

Players who are already wearing No.6 can keep it, and Denver Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan was among those who said he would do so to honour Russell’s legacy.

Bulls guard Alex Caruso said he looked into switching his No.6 uniform this season but was told he had to keep it because he is in the top 75 in jersey sales. Caruso wore No.4 with the Los Angeles Lakers but Chicago has retired it for Jerry Sloan and No.6 was the “best-looking number in the single digits that was left.”

“Obviously, I want to do nothing but honour him and his legacy and what he stood for because he’s one of the pioneers of racial advocacy for the game of basketball in general and just all-around great person,” he said.

In addition to the jersey patch, teams will also have a No.6 on their courts near the scorer’s tables.

“I’m glad we get to remember him like this,” Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr said.

“He’s definitely watching over the game, watching over our jerseys like, ‘Yep.’ It’s special man. A lot of rings for him.”

It has been a tumultuous off-season for the Celtics, who were two wins from winning an unprecedented 18th NBA championship last season. Over the summer, newly signed free agent Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL and was lost for the season, and center Robert Williams III also needed surgery and won’t be available for the opener.

Jaylen Brown was mentioned in trade talks for All-Star Kevin Durant and just three days before the start of training camp, coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season.

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