BOSTON — Before the Celtics open the 2022-23 NBA season against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at TD Garden, the franchise celebrated the life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and rights icon Bill Russell civics whose number 6 was permanently retired by the NBA following his death this summer.
“Bill Russell was a great man,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said at a pre-game ceremony honoring Russell. “But what did that mean? What defined his greatness? Who was he as a mentor, a father, a member of his community, most definitely his 11 championships here in Boston, both in as a player and coach.
“But, without a doubt, Bill Russell was a great man for what and for whom he stood for. At the height of racial tensions in our society, he represented a type of nobility and honor that transcended sport. The respect that he receives people will live in eternity, and I am grateful to have been able to shake his hand. He was a true champion both on and off the court, and our gratitude is endless.
“I started by saying that Bill Russell was a great man. Bill Russell was the greatest of men.”
The ceremony began about 15 minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s game with a video highlighting Russell’s career, followed by Brown’s speech and a spoken poem by Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola.
A second video was then released, showcasing not only his basketball accomplishments, but also his extensive work as a civil rights advocate, including his being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the President. Barack Obama in 2011 – a video released about an artist’s performance. Aloe Blacc.
Throughout the ceremony, individual spotlights shone on the No. 6 in the paint at both ends of the pitch – part of several tributes the Celtics will pay to arguably the greatest figure in league history, and the one that dominates all sports here. .
Fans later paid their respects to Russell’s widow, Jeannine Russell, as she sat pitchside and tearfully gave a standing ovation during a third-quarter timeout in the 126-117 win. of the Celtics.
Following Russell’s death in July at the age of 88, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that beginning this season, his number 6 would be retired league-wide, giving Russell the same honor. that baseball has given another all-time great on and off the field. : Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson.
“Bill Russell’s unprecedented success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” Silver said in a statement announcing the decision at the time. “Permanently retiring his number 6 on all NBA teams ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”
In addition to the jersey retirement – which hasn’t impacted players already wearing number 6, including Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James – all NBA players will wear a commemorative shoulder patch. right of their shirt during the 2022-23 season. , and each pitch will display a cloverleaf logo with Russell’s number 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.