The NBA announced to retire the #6 jersey across all teams in the league on Thursday, August 11. This was in light of honoring 11-time NBA Champion Bill Russell, who recently died at the age of 88 at his home in at his home in Mercer Island, Washington. Russell is also regarded as the ‘greatest champion’ in team sports.
This was also the first time that the league has declared that no players can be issued the jersey with the no. 6 printed on it, but players who currently wear the same will be allowed to continue doing so, as long as they are with their current teams only.
There have been only a handful of players to ever wear the #6 in the back. Let’s have a look at the five best players apart from Bill Russell to wear the iconic number.
Lebron James (Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers)
Very few lists exists in the NBA that do not start with Lebron James at the top. James started wearing the #6 on his back after his move to the Miami Heat in 2010.
He wore the number for all of his time (four years) at south beach. In doing so, he captured two NBA Championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and two NBA MVPs.
After his transfer to the Lakers in the summer of 2019, he initially wore the number 23 that he had worn for all of his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the first two seasons with the Lakers, he wore 23 but shifted to the no. 6 before the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers)
Julius Erving, or Dr J, is one of the greatest players to wear the no. 6 kit. Erving won the NBA MVP in 1981 and the NBA championship in 1983 while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.
He was an All-Star every year he played (16 times). Erving is also a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame winner in 1993.
Walter Davis (Phoenix Suns)
Davis was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the fifth overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft and went on to win the Rookie of the Year honor. During his 15-year career, he averaged 20 points or more six times.
He was a key player for the Phoenix Suns during his 11-year career. After becoming the franchise’s career point leader with 15,666 points, the Suns retired his no. 6 jersey. Apart from the Suns, he also played for Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.
Patrick Ewing (Orlando Magic)
Ewing wore no. 6 for the Orlando Magic during the 2001-02 season. This was Patrick Ewing‘s 17th and final NBA season, bringing an end to a storied career that lacked a championship.
He was drafted first overall by the New York Knicks in 1985 and he quickly proved his worth by winning Rookie of the Year. Ewing was a hard player in the middle, averaging 20.0 points or more in 13 of his 15 seasons at Madison Square Garden.
Ben Wallace (Detroit Pistons)
Wallace wore no. 6 for the Detroit Pistons between 2009-10 and 2011-12 seasons before retiring from the league. He won a championship with the Pistons in 2004, when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in the finals.
He is one of only two players in history to have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award four times.