Magic Johnson joins NBA’s call to retire No. 6 in the league in honor of Bill Russell

Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has called for NBA legend Bill Russell’s number to be retired by the NBA throughout the league.

Russell, an 11-time NBA champion and civil rights campaigner, died Sunday at the age of 88.

He was one of the most influential basketball players in history and tributes, led by former President Barack Obama, flooded after the death of the Celtics legend.

Magic Johnson Calls NBA Legend Bill Russell's Number to Retire in the League

Magic Johnson Calls NBA Legend Bill Russell’s Number to Retire in the League

Russell was a coveted number 6 for the Celtics and this number has already been retired by the team.

Russell was a coveted number 6 for the Celtics and this number has already been retired by the team.

Some have now taken Russell’s praise a step further, with observers calling on the NBA to retire his No. 6 jersey throughout the league.

Former Lakers point guard Johnson has added his voice to the mix as he joined NBA commissioner Adam Silver in calling for the move.

Johnson wrote on Twitter: ‘Commissioner Adam Silver should retire No. 6 in the @NBA in honor of Bill Russell’s legacy!’

Johnson took to Twitter to join NBA commissioner Adam Silver's call to action

Johnson took to Twitter to join NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s call to action

The No. 6 has already been retired by the Celtics, but the move would immortalize it in the NBA as the No. 42 was in the MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson.

It would appropriately cement Russell’s legacy as an on-court champion and civil rights trailblazer.

Russell’s 11 titles with the Celtics came between 1956 and 1969 in one of the game’s most prominent eras, but endured significant racism and abuse, while playing for Boston.

But Russell used his position to pursue equality throughout his life. Notably, he was at the Washington March in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and he supported Muhammad Ali for refusing to enlist the boxer in the military draft. was columned.

The move will strengthen Russell's legacy as an on-court champion and civil rights trailblazer

The move will strengthen Russell’s legacy as an on-court champion and civil rights trailblazer

Russell's 11 titles marked a major era for the Celtics in basketball between 1956 and 1969.  In 1966, Russell was named the team's player-coach by outgoing coach Red Auerbach (right).

Russell’s 11 titles marked a major era for the Celtics in basketball between 1956 and 1969. In 1966, Russell was named the team’s player-coach by outgoing coach Red Auerbach (right).

However, Johnson’s pitch faces a hurdle as No. 6 is the jersey currently worn by LeBron James and that plan may not go down so well with the Lakers.

James switched to No. 6 in 2021 after wearing the No. 23 for his first three seasons in Los Angeles. She also wore this number during her four-year stint with the Miami Heat.

he explained the decision athleticSaying: ‘It’s always been a part of me, to be honest.

LeBron James wears No. 6 with the Lakers

LeBron James wears No. 6 with the Lakers

‘Six means a lot to me, from my family and numbers and things of that nature to what I believe in and things like that, but my mindset doesn’t change.’

However, James has flicked between the two numbers throughout his career and another switch could pave the way for Johnson’s unprecedented call for respect.

Russell won an Olympic gold medal in Melbourne with the United States in 1956 and two NCAA titles in San Francisco in 1955 and 56, the success paving the way for him to become a five-time NBA MVP and a 12-time All-Star.

Russell averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds in 13 seasons (1956–69) with the Celtics. He was first inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975, then as a coach in 2021.

In addition to his civil rights work, he is considered one of the greatest winners in American sports history and the greatest defensive player in NBA history.

The Louisiana native made a lasting impression as a black athlete in a city and country—where races are often a flash point.

In 2011, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama – the highest civilian honor in the United States.

In 2011, Russell was awarded the highest civilian honor - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2011, Russell was awarded the highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Former President Barack Obama (left) pays tribute to the great, saying 'we have lost a great'

Former President Barack Obama (left) pays tribute to the great, saying ‘we have lost a great’

Upon receiving the news of his death, Obama tweeted, ‘Today we lost a legend. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy as a player and as a person goes up a lot.

‘Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. In addition, he was a civil rights pioneer – walking alongside Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali.

‘For decades, Bill tolerates humiliation and vandalism, but never stops him from speaking up for what is right. I learned a lot from the way he played, the way he coached and the way he lived his life.

Johnson joined the 44th President of the United States of America to pay tribute to the NBA great.

He tweeted: ‘He was one of the first frontline athletes to fight for social justice, equality, equality and civil rights. That’s why I admired him a lot and loved him so much. Throughout our friendship, he always reminded me about making things better in the black community.’

His memorable rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain

By Alex Ruskin, Sports News Editor

For all his success and civil rights work, it may be Russell’s rivalry with longtime friend and fellow Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain that is most remembered by fans.

The ‘Big Dipper’, as the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain was known, debuted for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959, and immediately set an NBA record by averaging 37.6 points in a game as a rookie. That offensive firepower was a perfect complement to the defensive-minded Russell, the persuasive player to dub his first meetings “The Big Collision” and “Battle of the Titans”.

Statistically, Chamberlain dominated Russell in 94 regular season meetings, averaging 30 points and 28.2 rebounds a game.

Financially, Russell had a slight edge over Chamberlain, who in 1965 became the first NBA player to receive a salary of $100,000, only to see Celtics coach and executive Rad Auerbach grow his centerpiece to $100,001 annually.

Of course, Russell made his biggest mark in the victory column, scoring 57 and 37 in the regular season against Chamberlain’s teams: the Warriors, both Philadelphia and San Francisco, the Philadelphia 76ers, and later, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Russell (left) in action against his LA Lakers rival Wilt Chamberlain in 1969

Russell (left) in action against his LA Lakers rival Wilt Chamberlain in 1969

It was in LA that Russell inflicted his most devastating defeat on Chamberlain.

Chamberlain, the reigning MVP in 1968, was traded to LA, where he made the Lakers an immediate favorite to win the NBA title and end the Celtics’ dynasty.

Instead, the aging Celtics reached the finals and pushed the Lakers to a Game 7 in LA, where owner Jack Kent Cooke ordered thousands of “world champion” balloons in anticipation of the home team’s victory.

Russell reportedly told Lakers legend Jerry West ‘those f***ing balloons are living there’ after seeing the balloons secured by a net in the forum rafters.

He was right, and the Celtics won 108–106, while Chamberlain missed the fourth quarter with a knee injury. (He reportedly tried to return to the game, but was stopped by Lakers coach Butch Van Breda Kolf.)

Chamberlain and Russell did not speak for nearly 20 years, reportedly because Russell had criticized his friend’s performance on the series in front of reporters.

However, the two had reconciled, and were on good terms when Chamberlain died in 1999 at the age of 63 due to heart problems. His nephew later revealed that Russell was one of the first who was instructed to inform of Chamberlain’s death.

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