NBA Must Honor Bill Russell By Retiring No. 6 League

Some legacies are too important to leave aside, to trust that society will cherish them properly and celebrate them regularly. They require careful attention and direct action to ensure memories don’t fade over time.

Bill Russell has one of those legacies, and the NBA needs to do the right thing.

They are to retire the No. 6 uniform league-wide, honoring Russell in the same way as Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson.

The parallels between the two men, all-time great sports athletes who fought prejudice and bigotry with equal intensity, make the tribute an easy choice.

“In every generation, people make a difference not only with their game, but also with their personality”, Jerry West told Bill Plaschke of The Times on Sunday. “Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson were in the same class.

Twenty-five NBA players wore No. 6 last season, with only No. 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11 being more popular) – LeBron James is among the group that currently wears it. The league could certainly let players end their careers with Russell’s number. But no one else should wear it – a final token of respect for the incredible imprint Russell left on what it means to be an NBA champion and, more importantly, what it means to be a socially concerned and connected member. of society ready to stand up to injustice.

It became the model of what it means to be an NBA player.

On the court, Russell played basketball with supreme purity, emphasizing defense and rebounding as a means to winning. He did it better than anyone – 11 NBA championships, two college titles and an Olympic gold medal.

He was the NBA’s most valuable player five times, although he never averaged 20 points per game.

I became the league’s first black head coach, and by winning a championship, I helped open doors for those who followed.

His name is already on the trophy given to the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, but that’s not enough.

By retiring Russell’s number and celebrating it on or around his birthday on February 1. On December 12, the NBA could tell Russell’s story every year to people who need to be reminded.

“My mom went on to tell me that I should never fight anyone, but always finish the fight I was in,” Russell wrote in Slam magazine in 2020. “I have 86 now and I think I have another fight to finish.

This fight, of course, was for humanity and equality against those who treated black people with hatred.

Russell led a boycott of black players in 1961 of an exhibition game in Lexington, Ky., after two teammates were refused service at a cafe. He met Muhammad Ali alongside the biggest black sports stars as part of the Cleveland summit in 1967.

He defied racist Boston fans and refused to simply offer respect when it was undeserved and organized integrated basketball camps in Mississippi after the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

He met injustice with intelligence and anger, a combination that didn’t sit well with many people.

Still, talking and speaking out has become mainstream in the NBA — and Russell deserves credit for creating that.

“Bill represented something much bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inscribed in our league’s DNA,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday. , in a press release. “At the height of his athletic career, Bill was a strong advocate for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed on to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps.

“Through taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill overcame it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.

In a league where he has largely become a safe space for speaking out against inequality and injustice, protecting Russell’s legacy is too important to leave to chance.

While Russell might have been uncomfortable with a tribute like this, the stakes are too high.

Otherwise. 6 were in the rafters of every NBA arena and one day was dedicated to its greatest champion, the league could ensure Russell’s story remained fresh.