Why are NBA players wearing No. 6 on their jerseys?


As opening week of the 2022-23 NBA season gets underway, fans may notice a No. 6 patch on players’ jerseys. 

After NBA legend Bill Russell died at the age of 88 on July 31, the league announced several ways it would honor the basketball icon throughout the new season. 

Included in those plans were that the NBA would no longer issue a new No. 6 jersey to a player league-wide and a No. 6 patch would be embroidered onto all uniforms, among others. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Russell’s patch:

What is the number 6 on NBA jerseys?

The No. 6 patch on NBA jerseys this season is a nod to Bill Russell’s legacy on the court. The Boston Celtics legend amassed 11 NBA titles, five MVPs, 12 All-Star appearances and countless other accolades while rocking the No. 6 on his back from 1956-1969. 

Is everyone wearing number 6 on their jersey?

Yes, every player in the league will have the No. 6 patch on their uniform to honor Russell, including every team having his number displayed above the NBA mid-court logo in a black-white-gold colorway.

Did the NBA retire the number 6?

Yes, the NBA retired No. 6 league-wide to honor Russell, which marked the first time in league history a number was retired across all organizations. 

For the players who were already wearing No. 6, the NBA grandfathered their jerseys, meaning they can still choose to wear it until they retire or swap to a new number.

Why is LeBron James wearing number 6?

LeBron James first wore No. 6 with the Miami Heat when he left for South Beach in 2010. He previously wore No. 23 with the Cleveland Cavaliers when he was first drafted in 2003 and returned to that number after going back to his hometown team in 2014. 

The No. 23 jersey stayed with James when he first signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. However, he swapped to No. 6 before the start of the 2021-22 campaign after also rocking the number while filming for “Space Jam: A New Legacy” that had been released that summer.  

Prior to the start of 2021-22, James explained why he had made the switch to No. 6 (h/t: LeBronWire/USA TODAY):

“It’s always been a part of me, to be honest,” James said. “Six has a lot of meaning to me, from my family and numbers and things of that nature to what I believe in and things of that sort, but my mentality doesn’t change.”

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