Magic Johnson calls for NBA to retire Bill Russell's No. 6 across the league

·2-min read

Tributes have poured in since the death of Bill Russell, whose unparalleled success as an NBA champion was rivaled only by his impact off the court.

Magic Johnson would like to see his legacy formalized league-wide. The Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers point guard called for the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday to retire Russell's jersey No. 6 across the league. He made his pitch on Twitter.

The suggested step would immortalize Russell's No. 6 alongside that of No. 42 in MLB, which is retired across baseball to honor Jackie Robinson. Russell's like legacy as an on-court champion and civil rights trailblazer certainly makes him an intriguing candidate for what would be an unprecedented NBA honor. It's a compelling pitch from Magic.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 19:  Former NBA players Bill Russell (L) and Earvin
Bill Russell and Magic Johnson are honored during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

But there's one glaring snag to Johnson's plan, which might not go over so well in Lakers land. In the short term, at least. LeBron James wears No. 6. He made the switch in 2021 after wearing No. 23 for his first three seasons in Los Angeles. It's the same number he wore during his four-year run with the Miami Heat.

Here's how he explained the decision.

“It’s always been a part of me, to be honest,” James said in 2021. “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."

James has flipped back and forth from No. 23 to No. 6 throughout his career. Would he be on board with returning to No. 23 in the event that Johnson's pitch gains traction while he's still in the league? There's obviously a long way to go before that's a concern.

So far, no word from James — or Silver — regarding Johnson's suggestion.

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