The other day NBA superstar LeBron James said that starting next year he would no longer wear number 23. Further he says all NBA players should relinquish wearing number 23 – out of respect to the greatest number 23, Michael Jordan. Actually I have no problem with that.

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But young Mr. James, don’t go around saying that you will likely wear number 6 instead. That, young Mr. James is an insult to history, and an insult to a man who I think can never get enough credit for what he accomplished in the NBA.

LeBron James and too many other history addled people seem to forget that the NBA’s all-time greatest winner and perhaps greatest player wore number 6 – his name is Bill Russell.

So if LeBron wants to honor Michael Jordan and number 23 he damned sure ought to respect number 6 and the great Bill Russell too by picking another number to wear! Bill Russell will always be the greatest number 6.

I do understand the need to recognize Michael Jordan, but there should be no recognition like that for Jordan unless Bill Russell’s number 6 is also permanently retired. At his best Jordan was beauty in motion. And a winner. But even with six titles to his credit Jordan can never be the winner that the original number 6 – Bill Russell was. Russell won 11 NBA titles. Many people also forget that Russell made history as the first modern-era African-American head coach in a major sport in 1966.

More importantly, as a player-coach, Bill Russell led the Boston Celtics to two NBA titles.

Perhaps LeBron is just too young to realize that in recognizing Jordan he “forgot” about Bill Russell.

I haven’t forgotten.

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  1. Alan Lee says:

    Which illustrates my stance that no number should ever be retired. I’d much prefer to hang a banner with all the great players who’ve worn a particular number than say let one individual erase it from ever been used again. Pretty soon we’re going to have 47, 66, 89 etc as numbers. Hardly basketball material.

    It would mean much more to me as a player if I got to earn the right and respect to wear a “23” or “6”.

  2. DavidBurnett says:

    @Alan Lee

    You make a great point Alan. Perhaps something like Syracuse University used to do with number 44, which only went to a great running back.