Russell, who died July 31 at the age of 88, won 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics and becomes the first player to have his number retired on all 30 teams.

“Bill Russell’s unprecedented success on the field and his pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” league commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement announcing the news. .

“Permanently retiring his number 6 on all NBA teams ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized,” Money added.

“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement announcing the news.

“Bill’s actions on and off the pitch throughout his life have helped shape generations of players for the better and for that we are eternally grateful. We are proud to continue to celebrate his life and legacy at sides of the league”, Tremaglio added.

The league not only retires Russell’s number, but also plans to honor the five-time MVP by having a commemorative patch affixed to the right shoulder of team jerseys, while all fields will display a cloverleaf logo with the n ° 6. on the sideline near the scorer’s table.

Russell is the most decorated player in NBA history and was the league’s first black head coach.

The decision to permanently retire his number is similar to that of Major League Baseball, which did the same for baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson in 1997.

“He inspired me to be a better man”

Russell reigned supreme on the court, but he was equally famous for his work outside of basketball.

A prominent civil rights activist, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, condemned racial segregation and advocated for Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War.

“He became a role model when I realized that some of the things that scared me and bothered me about race relations in America were things he addressed,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul- Jabbar to CNN’s Don Lemon.

“He gave me a way to talk about it that had all the elements to try to make something better, rather than just being angry,” added Abdul-Jabbar, who had a 60-year friendship with Russell. .

In the 1950s, Russell accused the predominantly white NBA of deliberately excluding black players and later served on the league’s all-black starting roster in 1964.

Despite his accomplishments on the pitch, Russell was the victim of racial slurs as a player, while his family suffered threats, burglaries and vandalism.

“He inspired me to be a better man by handling situations… without giving in to all the anger and rage he must have felt,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Bill showed the world class.”

CNN’s Don Lemon and George Ramsay contributed to this post.

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