May 28, 2024


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Bill Russell, one of the greatest and most influential athletes in all of sports history, died on Sunday at the age of 88. Of course, tributes poured in from the NBA community and beyond.

Russell won 11 NBA championships, including eight straight from 1959-66. He won the last two in 1968-69 while serving as the Celtics’ starting center and coach. Of career numbers they take your breath away.

There is almost no way to measure the impact that Russell had not only on the sport, but on society as a whole, during his career, and he continued that impact throughout his life as one of the most socially conscious and active athletes that we have ever seen. As such, the great Magic Johnson called for Russell’s No. 6 to be retired in the NBA.

It’s hard to argue with Magic’s claim. Again, Russell’s impact was, and likely will forever be, unparalleled on and off the court. If there will never be another Bill Russell, why should anyone else wear the number? Major League Baseball retired No. 42 for Jackie Robinson. For the NBA to do the same for Russell would be a fitting honor for a legendary man.

If the NBA was behind this idea, LeBron James, who wears No. 6 for the Lakers, may find himself in need of a new number. Or the league could grandfather current players who wear No. 6 but not allow any new ones to take the number. That’s what MLB did for players who wore Robinson’s No. 42. Mariano Rivera was one of 13 players allowed to continue wearing the number as it was with the Yankees when former commissioner Bud Selig floated the idea on April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Other NBA players currently wearing No. 6 include Kristaps Porzingis of the Wizards, Jalen McDaniels of the Hornets and Alex Caruso of the Bulls.


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