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Boston Celtics honor Bill Russell by adding his No. 6 to the parquet paint

Boston Celtics honor Bill Russell by adding his No. 6 to the paint in the season-long tribute that celebrates the NBA legend’s ‘dominant play in the paint’

  • The Boston Celtics have painted Bill Russell’s No. 6 into the free throw lanes
  • 11-time NBA champion civil rights champion Russell dies at age 88
  • The Celtics unveiled a new home court before the season to honor him
  • Boston will pay tribute to Russell in several other ways throughout the season
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The Boston Celtics have painted Bill Russell’s No. 6 into the free throw lanes on their court in tribute to the Hall of Famer, who died this summer.

The 11-time NBA champion and civil rights champion Russell died at the age of 88 on July 31.

The Celtics unveiled a new home court ahead of the 2022-23 season to honor him with the season-long tribute to his ‘dominant play in the paint’.

Boston added the No. 6 to both courts to pay tribute to Russell’s play in the paint, marking the first time numerical text will appear within that area on an NBA court.

The franchise shared a photo of the on-field tribute, showing the area painted green with the No. 6 in a lighter shade over the top.

The Celtics added the caption: “Look for a special tribute to Bill Russell on the floor this season.”

The Boston Celtics have painted Bill Russell's No. 6 into the free throw lanes of their court in tribute to the Hall of Famer, who died this summer
The Boston Celtics have painted Bill Russell's No. 6 into the free throw lanes of their court in tribute to the Hall of Famer, who died this summer

The Boston Celtics have painted Bill Russell’s No. 6 into the free throw lanes of their court in tribute to the Hall of Famer, who died this summer

Boston unveiled the tribute on social media when they shared a photo of the painted No. 6
Boston unveiled the tribute on social media when they shared a photo of the painted No. 6

Boston unveiled the tribute on social media when they shared a photo of the painted No. 6

11-time NBA champion and civil rights champion Russell died at age 88 in July
11-time NBA champion and civil rights champion Russell died at age 88 in July

11-time NBA champion and civil rights champion Russell died at age 88 in July

Boston will pay tribute to Russell in several other ways throughout the season, including two nights in his honor. The first on Oct. 18 for the season opener and a later one on Feb. 12, which would have been his 89th birthday.

The Celtics will also wear special Russell-themed jerseys for some of their games, and their regular uniforms will also have something special on them to honor him.

The league also announced its own tribute to Russell last month when it revealed it would retire Russell’s jersey number.

After calls to retire the number in honor of one of basketball’s most influential players, the NBA and NBPA decided in August to never issue a No. 6 jersey again.

No.  6 will never be issued by the NBA again after the league revealed it will retire the number as a tribute to Boston Celtics legend Russell (pictured playing in 1967)
No.  6 will never be issued by the NBA again after the league revealed it will retire the number as a tribute to Boston Celtics legend Russell (pictured playing in 1967)

No. 6 will never be issued by the NBA again after the league revealed it will retire the number as a tribute to Boston Celtics legend Russell (pictured playing in 1967)

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

“Permanently retiring his No. 6 across all NBA teams ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

6 had already been retired by the Celtics in 1972, but Russell is the first player to have his number retired league-wide.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and other current wearers of No. 6 will be able to keep wearing it when they become grandfathers. However, a new shirt with that number will not be issued again.

LeBron James wears No. 6 with the Lakers and will be able to keep it as it becomes grandfathered
LeBron James wears No. 6 with the Lakers and will be able to keep it as it becomes grandfathered

LeBron James wears No. 6 with the Lakers and will be able to keep it as it becomes grandfathered

All NBA players will wear a patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys this season, the league revealed Thursday, and all NBA courts will feature a cloverleaf logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table to also commemorate Russell.

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

Russell used his position to push for equality throughout his life. In particular, he was at the March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and he supported Muhammad Ali when the boxer was pilloried for refusing to be drafted into the military.

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

His early success paved the way for him to become a five-time NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star
His early success paved the way for him to become a five-time NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star

His early success paved the way for him to become a five-time NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star

Russell pictured in 1956, shortly after coming out of San Francisco to sign with the Celtics
Russell pictured in 1956, shortly after coming out of San Francisco to sign with the Celtics

Russell pictured in 1956, shortly after coming out of San Francisco to sign with the Celtics

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

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

Russell averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds over 13 seasons (1956-69) with the Celtics. He was first inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975, then again 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 also left a lasting mark as a black athlete in a city — and a country — where race is often a flashpoint.

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

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