Bill Russell’s No. 6 joins a rare class of retired jersey numbers

Bill Russell, who died last month at age 88, has a rare honor: His No. 6 will be retired, not just for his team, the Boston Celtics, but for the entire NBA. Baseball and Wayne Gretzky #99 retired in hockey.

This raises several questions that we will try to answer.

Those players, including LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, may continue to wear No. 6 until retirement. But no new player will have a number. The same rule applied when Robinson’s number was retired throughout baseball in 1997. Mariano Rivera of the Yankees was the last player to still wear No. 42 every day when he retired in 2013.

Yes, quite a few, including Julius Erving. But the league’s retirement only honors Russell.

The push for baseball was to retire Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 from the league in honor of his humanitarian work. In particular, many Puerto Rican players have stated that they do not wear this number. Commissioner Rob Manfred said Clemente is being honored in his own way with the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes service to sportsmanship and community.

In the four most respected men’s leagues, the Yankees (21, with more planned this year), the Boston Celtics (23), the Montreal Canadiens (15) and the Chicago Bears (14). Many WNBA teams have retired the numbers of their top players, including the Los Angeles Sparks, who retired Lisa Leslie’s No. 9.

in baseball, 38; football, 2; men’s basketball, 26; and men’s hockey, 25.

Several teams have released a token microphone for the legendary announcer, such as Vin Scully for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chick Hearn for the Los Angeles Lakers. Some baseball players who competed before the dawn of uniforms are revered: Rodgers Hornsby of the St. Louis Cardinals and Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Phillies, for example.

Of course, the Chicago Bulls retired Michael Jordan at number 23. Team president Pat Riley said: “We flipped his jersey because I had so much respect for him.” Pete Maravich never played for the New Orleans Pelicans, but he did play for Louisiana State and the New Orleans Jazz, so the Pelicans still had his number 7 retired.

Kobe Bryant wore number 8 in the first half of his career, and number 24 in the second. The Lakers moved him both numbers.

The Yankees had two great catchers who wore the number 8: Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. Now, the number has been retired to honor them both. Among those who share the retired number: Greg Maddux and Ferguson Jenkins, No. 31 of the Cubs; Lem Barney, Billy Sims and Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions #20; Guy Lapointe and Bernie Geoffrion, the No. 5 Canadians.

No. 00 has been retired (the only one by the Celtics’ Robert Parrish), but so are 1,223 to honor Jerry Sloan’s coaching win with the Utah Jazz.

Although the tradition is not as common in world football and other international sports, some clubs have retired a player or two. Among the notables: Johan Cruyff, number 14 of Ajax; Bobby Moore, West Ham’s number 6; And Diego Maradona, whose number 10 was retired by Napoli.

It is more difficult for international teams. In an event like the World Cup, 23-man teams are required to number their players from 1 to 23, so retirement was not an option. (The list was expanded to 26 players for this year’s tournament.) At the 2018 World Cup, Neymar wore Pele’s number 10 for Brazil, and Lionel Messi wore Maradona’s number 10 for Argentina.

Many football clubs also do not assign the number 12 in honor of their fans, who they consider to be the “12th player” on the pitch. It’s the same reason why the Sacramento Kings and the NBA’s Orlando Magic were already ranked No. 6.

Now, thanks to Russell, number 6 will soon leave the courts of other teams.

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