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NBA to Retire No. 6 League-Wide in Honor of Bill Russell

The NBA is making the ultimate tribute to Bill Russell.

The league and its players union announced Thursday that uniform No. 6 will be permanently retired across all 30 teams in honor of the Celtics legend, who died July 31 at age 88.

Russell is one of the greatest players in NBA history and was an iconic civil rights activist off the court. He led Boston to 11 league championships, was named to 12 All-Star Games, won five MVP awards and captured four rebounding titles. He served as player-coach of the Celtics during his final three seasons in Boston.

After his playing career, Russell worked as a head coach and executive with the Seattle SuperSonics and Kings. He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2010. 

“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.”

NBA players who currently wear uniform No. 6, including LeBron James of the Lakers, may continue using it until they retire or switch teams. The Celtics originally retired No. 6 in tribute to Russell in 1972.

“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.”

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