The NBA will officially retire the No. 6 and add a commemorative patch to all uniforms for next season to honor the late Bill Russell, the league announced Thursday.
“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
No current Toronto Raptors players wear the No. 6 and the number has gone unowned since 2016-17 when Cory Joseph last wore the number. Prior to that only Alan Anderson, Jermaine O'Neal, Luke Jackson, and Jérôme Moïso wore the number.
Russell, who died on July 31, 2022, at 88 years old, was an 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer who played in 13 seasons for the Boston Celtics between 1956 and 1969.
“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” said NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio. “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.”
Anyone currently wearing the No. 6 will be allowed to continue wearing the number.