How Bill Russell became first retired number in Raptors history

2022-09-23 22:57:03 By : Ms. Anna An

CAMBRIDGE, MA - OCTOBER 02: Former Boston Celtic and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell presents the 2013 W.E.B. Du Bois Medal (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors franchise, like the rest of the NBA world, was dealt a crushing blow this August. Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who is without question a Top 10 player in NBA history and an outspoken civil rights activist, passed away at the age of 88.

Russell’s achievements include 11 championship rings, five MVP awards, and recognition as both the first Black head coach in the NBA and the first to win a championship. His is one of the most extraordinary lives in not just NBA history, but North American sports history.

Few honors that the league can bestow upon Russell can adequately describe what he has done as a force for good in and out of the crucible of competition. As such, the league made an unprecedented move that ties in Russell’s legend with all 30 current NBA franchises.

The NBA announced that they would retire Russell’s No. 6 across the league, citing his excellent play on the court, groundbreaking coaching career, and commitment to social justice and civil rights off the floor. As such, No. 6 becomes the first number that no Raptors player will ever know again.

The life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer Bill Russell will be honored by retiring his uniform number, 6, throughout the league. The iconic Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer will be the first player to have his number retired across the NBA.

The last player to wear No. 6 for the Raptors was Cory Joseph, who served as a backup point guard for two seasons under Dwane Casey. Names like Jermaine O’Neal, Alan Anderson, and Jérôme Moïso all wore Russell’s number during their brief Raptors tenures.

Picking which player would have the first retired number hoisted above Scotiabank Arena was a passionate debate among segments of this fanbase. Kyle Lowry’s No. 7, DeMar DeRozan’s No. 10, and Vince Carter’s No. 15 all had legitimate claims to that title. Surprisingly, a former Celtic gets to claim this honor.

While some fans might object to calling Russell’s honor a proper number retirement, the fact of the matter is that no Raptors is wearing No. 6 ever again. The causes Russell helped fight for while simultaneously being the greatest defensive player the league has ever seen should be enough for the Raptors to acknowledge his greatness.

The NBA announced it is honoring Bill Russell by permanently retiring uniform No. 6 across the league

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 11, 2022

Even though the Raptors lack tons of connections to Russell, the whole franchise owes a debt to him for his ability to break down barriers and eventually become one of the seminal players in the history of the league. No NBA player could provide an accurate facsimile of Russell or his legacy, so retiring No. 6 makes sense.

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