It’s already been 75 wonderful years since the foundation of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and we have already seen the best athletes share the floor. One of whom is the 11-time champion and Boston Celtics legend, Bill Russell. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few days ago. To commemorate his contribution to the league, the NBA announced that they will be retiring Russell’s number (no.6) across the whole league, all 30 NBA teams.

This gesture isn’t new to sports. MLB (Major League Baseball) first did this by retiring the great Jackie Robinson’s no. 42 in 1997, which even sparked a biopic film starring Chadwick Boseman. The second time this happened was when NHL (National Hockey League) retired Wayne Gretzky’s no.99 in 1999. Bill Russell’s no.6 is only the third in sporting history.

Retiring the jersey number of one of the team’s best players isn’t new but to retire a number, not just in a team, but league-wide, is a first for the NBA. This may sound amazing and look great, however, we think that this decision is not a good one.

Why we think it’s a bad idea (Bill Russell’s no.6 league-wide retirement)

Hearing that the NBA is giving credit to where credit is due made most of the fans cheerful. He is one of the best to ever do it alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and many more. He battled diversity, racial discrimination, and a lot of recurring conflicts in an era where basketball and black athletes weren’t accepted yet. However, retiring his number across the NBA seems a bit odd for many reasons.

  • First, why did the NBA wait for Russell to pass away to give him enough props?

    Sure they got the NBA Finals MVP award named after him, but should they be thanking him more for paving the way for future generations of basketball players back when he was alive? With that being the case, their recognition of Bill Russell’s contribution to the game should mark the beginning of recognizing other old players too. Thankfully, the NBA decided to give back to the pioneers by giving 115 former ABA players a total of $24.5 Million as an incentive for their service.

  • Second, this is the very first time they did it for a former player and it could start a shortage of jersey numbers.

    • Yes, Bill Russell was one of the first African-American hoopers who played in an era plagued with rampant racial discrimination. However, with his number getting retired league-wide, would this mark the beginning for other legendary and game-changing basketball icons to receive the same treatment? We got names like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Jerry West, and LeBron James that are highly regarded as the best to ever set foot on the hardwood.
    • Does this mean that, if the names mentioned will depart the physical world, will they also get their numbers retired? We’re looking at 23 (Jordan), 44 (West), 32 (Johnson), 33 (Bird), and so on. To put things in perspective, there are only 99 numbers (00,0~99) currently being used in the NBA. Retiring and restricting 6 would mean we also restrict the other numbers, leading to a possible retirement of all 99 of them.
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Notable players in NBA history who wore no.6

The number six (6) was first worn by the late great Bill Russell. However, there’s someone who might take the throne as the best to ever wear the number – and that is LeBron James.

Photo Courtesy of skysports.com

During his time with the Miami Heat, he wore the number 6 since his previous number (#23) was not available. 23 was famously owned by Michael Jordan who happened to be retired by the Heat. Currently, he is transitioning from #23 to #6 in his days as a Laker. This makes him the best player to ever wear the number.

Another Hall-of-Famer, the Doctor, Julius Erving, also wore no.6 when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers. For 10 years (1977-1987), Dr. J boasted the number as the centerpiece of the whole Sixers organization.

Some notable active players wearing the same number are also all listed below:

  • Alex Caruso (Chicago Bulls)
  • Kristaps Porzingis (Washington Wizards)
  • Lou Williams (Atlanta Hawks)
  • Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers)

Do you agree that the NBA should not continue this kind of tradition? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. For more content, stay with us, here at Spiel Times.

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