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(Charles Krupa/AP)

NBA Players Who Currently Wear Bill Russell’s No. 6 To Be Grandfathered in

NBA No. 6 jersey number
(Charles Krupa/AP)

NBA Players who currently wear Bill Russell’s No. 6 to be Grandfathered In

The NBA announced Thursday that it will be permanently retiring Bill Russell’s No. 6 jersey number across the league. However, the two-dozen players — most notably LeBron James — who wear No. 6 are going to be grandfathered in, meaning they can still wear the number if they so choose.

Russell — a pioneer to the sport, social justice activist in the mid-20th century, and one of sports’ greatest winners ever; a living legend — passed away at the age of 88 on July 31, 2022. The Finals MVP was named after Russell in 2009. Now commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA performed the righteous and gracious honor in retiring his famed number.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” Silver, via press release. “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 in the same release.  “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.”

Quotes via

Russell is not the only athlete to have their number retired in their respective sport. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier for African American athletes in 1947, had his number permanently retired across baseball in April 1997. Though, the same principle for grandfathering it in also applied in MLB. Hall of Famer and former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the final player to wear No. 42, a number he donned his entire career. Rivera retired after the 2013 season.

Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 was also retired across the NHL in February of 2000, a year after he retired as the sport’s all-time leading scorer.

Now the late-and-great Bill Russell — who won 11 NBA Titles in 13 seasons (1956-69), back-to-back national championships at the University of San Francisco (1954-1956) and a gold medal with the U.S. men’s national team in the 1956 Olympics — joins them in that honor.

Here are the list of NBA players who wore No. 6 at some point last season, per Basketball Reference (teams listed are the teams they played for in ’21-22).

  • LeBron James, Lakers
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Pelicans/Jazz
  • Alex Caruso, Bulls
  • Hamidou Diallo, Pistons
  • Lou Williams, Hawks
  • Lance Stephenson, Pacers
  • Kristaps Porzingis, Mavericks/Wizards
  • Jordan McLaughlin, Timberwolves
  • Jalen McDaniels, Hornets
  • Montrezl Harrell, Wizards
  • Quentin Grimes, Knicks
  • Bryn Forbes, Nuggets
  • Moses Brown, Cavaliers
  • Shaq Buchanan, Grizzlies
  • Kenyon Martin Jr., Rockets
  • Kevin Pangos, Cavaliers
  • David Duke Jr., Nets
  • Keon Johnson, Blazers
  • Javonte Smart, Bucks
  • Zylan Cheatham, Jazz
  • Rayjon Tucker, Nuggets
  • Tyrone Wallace, Pelicans
  • Melvin Frazier, Thunder
  • Gabriel Deck, Thunder
  • Luca Vildoza, Bucks

These players can either stick with No. 6 for the foreseeable future or switch to another available number on their respective teams.

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