Bill Russell is the most decorated player in NBA history.
He won a record 11 championships during his playing career and became the first black coach in the NBA and the first to win a title.
His work outside of basketball was even more outstanding, which says a lot considering his accomplishments on the court. Russell was a key figure in the civil rights movement.
He passed away peacefully in July 2022 at the age of 88 and tributes poured in for the legendary centre.
NBA teams, legends, current players and former presidents of the United States have paid tribute to the Boston Celtics icon.
Barack Obama wrote on Twitter: “Today we lost a giant. As great as Bill Russell is, his legacy rises so much higher – both as a player and as a person.”
He added: “Perhaps more than anyone, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. apart from that, he was a civil rights pioneer – marching with Dr King and standing with Muhammad Ali.
“For decades Bill endured insults and vandalism, but that never stopped him from standing up for what is right. I learned so much from the way he played, how he coached and how he lived his life. .
“Michelle and I send our love to Bill’s family and everyone who looked up to him.”
As a result, some big players in the game were pushing for Russell’s number 6 jersey to be retired in the league.
His number is unsurprisingly retired by the Celtics, but was worn in the league by several players last season, including LeBron James.
Having won 11 championships in 13 years as Celtic, Russell is the greatest winner in NBA history, and one of the greatest players of all time, Magic Johnson, previously sent a message to commissioner Adam Silver : remove Russell’s number.
Magic tweeted earlier this month, “Commissioner Adam Silver should retire @NBA #6 in honor of Bill Russell’s legacy!”
And Adam Silver has since done just that – announcing on August 11 that the number would no longer be worn throughout the NBA.
A statement from the NBA read: “The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that they will honor the life and legacy of Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer, permanently retiring his league-wide uniform number, 6. The iconic Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer will be the first player to have his number retired throughout the NBA.
Would Russell have approved of this?
When his jersey was retired by Boston in 1972, the former center asked for the ceremony to be held in private due to issues he was having with the city’s racists, which added hostility to what should have been a beautiful relationship.
He was reluctant to celebrate his own accomplishments and would probably not support this movement.
Has this already been done?
In the NBA. No, he hasn’t. It’s the first time.
Number 42 is retired in Major League Baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson and number 99 is retired in the National Hockey League for Wayne Gretzky. It’s as close as possible.
It’s an incredible thing to do, and Bill Russell extremely deserves something this incredible.
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