The National Basketball Association and National Basketball Players Association will honor the late Bill Russell by permanently retiring his No. 6 across the league, making the Hall of Famer and civil rights activist to be the first player so honored.
Russell, an 11-time NBA champion and first Black head coach of any major professional sport, died on July 31 at the age of 88.
In announcing the news on Thursday, the NBA and NBPA said current players who wear No. 6, which includes Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, can choose to be grandfathered in and keep the number.
"Bill Russell's unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill's transcendent career will always be recognized."
In addition to the jersey retirement honor, the league announced that all players will wear a commemorative patch on their right shoulder during the 2022-23 season and all NBA arenas will display a "clover-shaped logo" with No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer's table. The logo is synonymous with Russell's Boston Celtics, with whom he spent his entire 13-year career.
Caruso will be the last of 19 Bulls to wear No. 6, a list that includes Keith Bogans and Cristiano Felício.
According to Basketball Reference, 25 players wore No. 6 during the 2021-22 season. It won't be issued again.