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NBA to retire Bill Russell’s jersey league-wide, LeBron James among those grandfathered in

The NBA announced on Thursday that Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey would be retired league-wide, though players already wearing the jersey number will be grandfathered in.

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Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For the first time in the history of the NBA, a player’s jersey will be retired across the entire league. On Thursday, the NBA and NBA Players Association released a joint statement announcing that Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey would be retired across the league.

Commissioner Adam Silver had the following quotes in the statement:

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” said NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio. “Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout the course of his life helped to shape generations of players for the better and for that, we are forever grateful. We are proud to continue the celebration of his life and legacy alongside the league.”

Along with the jersey being retired, players will wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys. Each court across the league will display a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6.

When Russell passed away a little more than a week ago, the news rocked the NBA world. While Russell was a rival to the Lakers during his playing days, he became much more of a fan of the franchise following retirement, even growing close with Kobe Bryant during his time on the Lakers. To that point, Russell was in attendance for Kobe’s own jersey retirement.

The NBA’s move to retire the No. 6 jersey would naturally lead to questions about what to do with players already wearing that number, like LeBron James. However, in the press release, the league announced that players currently wearing No. 6 will be grandfathered in. LeBron initially switched to the No. 6 jersey to allow Anthony Davis to wear No. 23, a move that has not happened, so if he chooses, LeBron could simply move back to his old number.

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