Shame on the NBA.
On the surface, it’s a great honor to Bill Russell’s permanent retirement number 6. The League, along with the Players Association, announced Thursday that his number will never be issued to any player from here on out.
After all, Russell is not only a great basketball player – winning 11 NBA championships in 13 years for the Boston Celtics – but also a great person. He was a leader in civil rights beyond the courts. He talked and walked. Faced with terrible racism in Boston, Russell did it with class and dignity.
A great honor to be matched to a great man.
However, it seems like such a statement about the man who arrived a day late and was missing a dollar.
The NBA had so many years to honor Russell while he was still alive and able to see and experience such an important moment in one’s life.
But the league let the ball bounce off their own feet in this match. It’s really embarrassing if you honestly think about it.
Russell should have been given flowers when he was alive. Russell remained active and in the league in his ’80s.
It’s not like he lost his sight and lost his mind.
In 2020, in a push to get everyone vaccinated, Russell made a televised public service announcement for the tournament.
Instead of seizing that moment to honor one of its own, the NBA continued with business as usual.
It wasn’t until Russell passed away and people began to re-learn his life that the NBA felt compelled to do what was right.
There was never really a rumor about honoring Russell. I’ve been following the NBA since 1987. Never heard it once.
In fact, the first time most heard about this was when Hall of Famer Magic Johnson tweeted the idea a day or so after Russell’s adoption.
The NBA concluded to be reactionary instead of proactive. This should have been done many years ago. You don’t have to say that you have a treasure in your ranks. You should know.
Russell retired many moons ago and is also a successful coach and broadcaster. Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. The league may have honored him at the time.
Better yet, they had another golden opportunity in 2010 when President Barack Obama honored Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his excellence on the court and his commitment to public service. by society. Russell was 76 years old then. Somehow, the NBA fell asleep in the crucial moment.
Russell actually left us for the NBA to recognize the biggest man in the room. And that tag has nothing to do with his height. Clearly, Russell has risen above many when it comes to standing up for what’s right.
To be fair, the NBA named the Finalist MVP Award after Russell for his contributions in 2009.
However, nothing is as great as having your numbers retired across the league.
Jackie Robinson died prematurely at the age of 53. However, the MLB honored Robinson – who broke the color barrier of baseball in 1947 – in 1997. They withdrew his number for the entire game. . This is the first time it has happened in professional sports.
In the NHL, Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 was retired when he hung up his boots in 2000. The NHL was undeterred when it came time to honor the Great.
Sure, the NBA was late to the party. Guess it’s better than a complete absence.
In addition to retiring the legend’s shirt number, the NBA will honor Russell with a patch. Each team will wear a commemorative sticker on the right sleeve of their jersey. NBA teams will also honor Russell with a three-leaf clover with the number 6 in the margin.
According to Basketball Reference, 23 NBA players wore the number 6 jersey last season, including Lakers star LeBron James. Those players will be represented and can continue to wear jersey numbers until they decide to change numbers or retire.
We’ve seen that in baseball. Yankees’ HOFer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear the number 42 shirt. He continued to wear the number even after MLB retired it as a tribute to Robinson. When Rivera retired, the number 42 faded to black.
Is it surprising that Russell sees him being treated the same way as Robinson? The NBA has turned and missed its Jackie. And that’s a damn shame.