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Given his profound impact on and off the court, no one's more deserving of having his number retired throughout the league than Bill Russell.

Russell won 11 championships in 13 seasons. Eight of those came consecutively. Neither feat will get duplicated in any sport. Along the way, he became the first Black head coach in the history of major team sports, leading the Celtics to two of those 11 titles as a player-coach.

In the process, Russell forever changed the game of basketball. By blocking shots with more precision than force and tipping the ball to himself or a teammate, he gave birth to the fast break. Doing so was paramount to the success of the NBA's original monarchy.

He also made it a point to learn all five positions within Boston's offense. That way, no matter how a particular game unfolded, the Celtics could effectively counter what the opposition was doing defensively.

Russell's the ultimate winner, including going 21-0 in winner-take-all-contests, as Bob Ryan noted and Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News conveyed on Twitter. But the change he created off the court is the most meaningful part of his legacy.

He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. He participated in the Cleveland Summit in 1967, supporting Muhammad Ali in one of the most important civil rights acts in sports history. And as Boston began desegregating its school systems, Russell didn't shy away from taking a stand in the name of justice and speaking out for what's right.

Never one to lose sight of what he was working to accomplish, after Medgar Evers, one of the country's leading civil rights activists, was assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi, Russell called Evers' brother, Charles. Determined to keep Medgar Evers' fight for freedom alive, Russell acted on Charles Evers' advice, went to Jackson, and held the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi.

Russell was on the front lines at every turn, changing the world for the better. It's why he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2011.

It's why Magic Johnson, like so many people, cites Russell as one of his idols.

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In the wake of Russell's passing, Johnson called on the NBA to honor his legacy by retiring his number 6 throughout the league. Now, he'll get his wish. Russell's indelible impact on sports and society also made him Jackie Robinson's favorite athlete. Now, the two have even more in common.

Per the NBA, players who currently wear number 6, such as LeBron James, will be grandfathered. As the league honors Russell throughout the 2022-23 season, 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 number 6 on the sideline near the scorer's table.

Further Reading

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