NBA Unveils Patch No. 6 to Honor Bill Russell Leaguewide

Marcus Smart shows off the No. 6 patch that all teams will wear this season. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

CANTON, MA (AP) – As the Celtics’ longest-serving player, Marcus Smart has been in Boston long enough to appreciate what Bill Russell meant to the team, city and country.

“We’ve heard things like ‘pioneer,’ ‘pioneer,'” Smart said Monday while wearing a patch honoring the Celtics Hall of Famer who died this summer. “To mention, you know, Bill Russell and the impact he has brought to this game is undeniable.”

A centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships in 13 years, Russell is honored this season not only for his unparalleled success on the field, but also for his lifelong commitment to civil rights. The NBA announced it would retire its league-wide No. 6 and each player would wear a black No. 6 crest on their jersey.

The Celtics have other tributes planned, with two nights set aside to honor Russell’s legacy, including the Oct. 18 opener. They painted the No. 6 in the free throw lane.

“The presence that Bill Russell had – not just on the field, but in the community – is something that will always be present, and he will always have a legacy because of it,” Celtics forward Grant Williams said. , adding that Boston was his grandfather’s favorite team because of Russell. “I’m lucky to play for this organization.”

Players who already wear number 6 can keep it, and Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan was among those who said he would do so to honor Russell’s legacy. (Major League Baseball did the same in 1997 when it retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across the AL and NL, and closer Yankees Mariano Rivera continued to wear it until his retirement. retired in 2013.)

Bulls guard Alex Caruso said he was considering changing his No. 6 uniform this season, but was told he had to keep it because it’s in the top 75 for jersey sales. Caruso wore No. 4 with the Lakers, but Chicago retired it for Jerry Sloan and No. 6 was the “greatest single-digit number left.”

“Obviously I don’t want to do anything but honor him and his legacy and what he stood for, because he’s one of the pioneers of racial rights advocacy for basketball in general and a great person,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who talks about him or who knows him who has anything negative to say.”

Remembering Bill Russell (1934-2022)

In addition to the shirt crest, teams will also have a No. 6 on their pitches near the scorers’ tables.

“I’m glad we remember him like that,” Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. said. It’s special man. Lots of rings for him.

It’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Celtics, who were two wins away from winning an unprecedented 18th NBA championship last season. Over the summer, newly signed free agent Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL and was lost for the season, and center Robert Williams III also required surgery and will not be available for the first game.

Jaylen Brown was mentioned in trade talks for All-Star Kevin Durant, leaving him to doubt the team’s commitment to him. And then, just three days before the start of training camp, coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season.

Brown said it was important to remember Russell’s struggles with racism in the 1960s and to understand that the team’s current turmoil pales in comparison.

“Thinking about his legacy and what he stood for and the amount of adversity he went through has nothing to do with what we have now,” Brown said.

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