Basketball-NBA to retire pioneer Russell's jersey throughout league


FILE PHOTO: Boston Celtics' legend Bill Russell stands with his Presidential Medal of Freedom during the NBA All-Star basketball game in Los Angeles, February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo

(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association (NBA) will retire the number 6 jersey worn by Boston Celtics great and civil rights icon Bill Russell, who died late last month, the league said on Thursday.

An 11-time NBA champion and the league's first Black coach, Russell is the first player to have his number retired across all teams in the NBA.

"Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

"Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized."

A superstar in the 1950s and 1960s, Russell was selected as an All-Star a dozen times in his 13 years with the Celtics, where he became one of sport's leading voices for civil rights and social justice in the United States.

The Celtics had previously retired his jersey in 1972.

"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," National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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