NBA Retires Bill Russell’s Number: Who Will Be the Last Player to Wear the Number 6?

NBA Retires Bill Russell’s Number: Who Will Be the Last Player to Wear the Number 6?

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In honor of the legendary Bill Russell, the NBA retired his number league-wide Thursday. Nobody will wear the #6 for the Orlando Magic or the Sacramento Kings again.

Actually, even before this news nobody wanted to wear the No. 6 for the Magic or Kings. Both franchises retired it for “the sixth man”, i.e. their fans. That’s something you learn by researching who last wore the number for each team and who might be the last to wear it in the entire league.

Players wearing the number 6 going into next season “will have a grandfather,” the NBA announced in a press release. If those players change teams, they can still wear the No. 6, according to a league spokesman.

This means that for teams who haven’t retired the number yet, it’s not accurate to say no one will wear it again. That said, here are the players who most recently wore the No. 6 for each team in the league:

  • Atlanta Hawks: Lou Williams, 2021-22 – Williams, whose second stint with his hometown team – and first with the No. 6 – started at the 2021 close, is a free agent.
  • Brooklyn Nets: David Duke Jr., since 2021
  • Boston Celtics: Bill Russell, 1956-1969
  • Charlotte Hornets: Jalen McDaniels, since 2019
  • Chicago Bulls: Alex Caruso, since 2021
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Moses Brown, 2022
  • Dallas Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis, 2019-22
  • Denver Nuggets: DeAndre Jordan, since 2022
  • Detroit Pistons: Hamidou Diallo, since 2021
  • Golden State Warriors: Alen Smailagic, 2019-21
  • Houston Rockets: Kenyon Martin Jr., since 2020
  • Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson, 2010-12; 2022 – Stephenson, whose third stint in Indiana began in January with a series of COVID hardship exemptions and 10-day contracts, is a free agent.
  • Los Angeles Clippers: Moses Brown, since 2022 – Brown is the only player, along with the next player on this list, to appear on it more than once.
  • Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James, since 2021
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Kenneth Lofton Jr., since 2022 — Lofton, who signed a two-way contract with Memphis after not being called up, wore the number 6 in publicity photos and wore the number in the Summer League. However, the Grizzlies’ official roster page does not list a number next to his name. When asked via email whether Lofton had been officially assigned the number, the team didn’t immediately reply. (Otherwise, the Grizzly most recently wearing the No. 6 was Shaq Buchanan, who appeared in two games on a 10-day contract in late December of last season.)
  • Miami Heat: LeBron James, 2010-2014
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Luca Vildoza, since 2022
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: Jordan McLaughlin, since 2019
  • New Orleans Pelicans: Tyrone Wallace, 2022 — If Wallace hadn’t signed two 10-day contracts with the Pelicans in March, Nickeil Alexander-Walker would be representing two teams on this list.
  • New York Knicks: Quentin Grimes, since 2021
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Jaylin Williams, since 2022
  • Orlando Magic: Patrick Ewing, 2001-02 – Ewing, who spent his final season in the NBA with Magic, is the only player to ever wear the number 6 for the team.
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Julius Erving, 1976-1987
  • Phoenix Suns: Walter Davis, 1977-1988 – Davis is the only player to ever wear the number 6 for the Suns.
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Keon Johnson, since 2022
  • San Antonio Spurs: Avery Johnson, 1992-1993; 1994-2001
  • Sacramento Kings: Bob Burrow, 1956-57 — When Burrow wore the number 6, the franchise was known as the Rochester Royals. The team moved to Cincinnati the next year, and while they’ve since played home games in Kansas City, Omaha, and Sacramento, one thing has remained constant: no one has worn the number 6.
  • Toronto Raptors: Cory Joseph, 2015-17
  • Utah Jazz: Nickeil Alexander Walker, since 2022
  • Washington Wizards: Kristaps Porzingis, since 2022

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So who could be the last player to wear the #6 on an NBA court? Of the 16 players currently wearing it (including Lofton, excluding Lou Williams and Stephenson), five were born in the 2000s:

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr (born August 14, 2002)
  • Jaylin Williams (born June 29, 2002)
  • Keon Johnson: 20 (March 10, 2002)
  • Kenyon Martin Jr (January 6, 2001)
  • Quentin Grimes (May 8, 2000)

Also, David Duke Jr. and Moses Brown share a birthday: October 13, 1999.

It’s possible that the last player to wear the No. 6 in the NBA won’t be in the above group, but these guys will all be 22 or younger when training camp starts in September and will be allowed to use them for the duration of their bear career. If you’re trying to make an educated guess, this is a good place to start.