Celtics painting No. 6 in the lane to honor Bill Russell

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In honor of the late Bill Russell, who passed away July 31 at age 88, the Boston Celtics are planning a series of tributes to their longtime center.

The team has painted Russell’s No. 6 in the lanes of Boston’s iconic parquet floor. It also plans to honor Russell at the team’s season opener on October 18, and again on Russell’s birthday, February 12. The team hasn’t worked out the specifics of all the tributes, as ESPN reports “there will also be something on their regular uniforms to honor him.” Yes, they will be honoring their 11-time champion with…something. They’ve got four weeks to figure out exactly what it is.

The NBA is retiring Russell’s No. 6 league-wide as well. Current players wearing No. 6, including LeBron James, can keep wearing it until they retire, but the NBA won’t give out the number again. It’s only the third-ever number to be retired league-wide in a professional sports league, after MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 and the NHL retired Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99.

In 2019, the NBA renamed the Final MVP trophy after Russell, who never won the award himself. That’s because it never existed before 1969, the year of Russell’s last title, when the Celtics defeated the Lakers. Jerry West averaged 37.9 points and became the only Finals MVP from a losing team, but as Russell used to say, “The only important statistic in basketball is the final score.” Russell played every single minute of Boston’s seven-game win – and was the head coach. He also won NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956 and an Olympic gold medal in 1956, meaning he racked up 14 championships in 15 years.

The city of Boston put up a statue of Russell at City Hall Plaza in 2013, and Barack Obama gave Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Expect more honors and tributes to one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Once the Celtics make up their minds what they will be.



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