The NBA retired its first number since Thursday, and Bill Russell’s number 6 couldn’t have been a better choice – if it wasn’t the only option. As a transcendent figure as a player, coach and civil rights leader, Russell’s legacy takes a dictionary to define. Of the big four professional sports in the US, only 42 by Jackie Robinson and 99 by Wayne Gretzky are the only other jerseys with no cap for the tournament.
It’s no surprise that this happened, but it’s shocking (depending on who you are) that it’s been going on for so long. I’m not sure if the rumors/suggestions on Twitter that spread after Russell’s death on July 31 prompted the move, or if an NBA announcement was made, but the general reaction seems to be the logical and right thing to do.
Can you strengthen someone’s legacy if it is already etched into the annals of history? Whatever you want to call it, Russell’s impact on the game is now immortal, and considering what he’s stood for, how he’s stood for it and who he’s stood with, what he’s been up to Working out in the ring is not enough to celebrate.
The abuse he has committed from his city is well documented, and some have said he is too good a man to be at peace with his Boston fan base. . With this move, his importance officially spread to every corner of the NBA, from Boston to LA, to Portland, through Chicago, and down to Miami.
Across the league, 14 players wear No. 6 — most notably, LeBron James — and they’ll be grandfathered into the distinction of being the last to sport that number.
While it would’ve been nice if Russell was alive to see his jersey raised to every rafter, it’s sadly reflective of the way he’s somehow overlooked that this honor comes after his passing.
There was only one number the NBA could’ve ever retired, and it’s Russell’s No. 6.