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The NBA opens its 2022-23 season Tuesday night with a doubleheader that features the two teams who played in the 2022 NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics begin the night by hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. That matchup precedes a contest between the 2022 NBA champion Golden State Warriors against the Los Angeles Lakers.

If you paid attention during the preseason, you may have noticed teams loading up on the patches on the front of their jerseys. They’re still raking in some advertising money with a patch from a sponsor, but why is every team wearing a No. 6 patch on the right shoulder of their jersey?

The NBA is honoring the late Bill Russell with a No. 6 patch

A detailed view of the Bill Russell patch worn by Haywood Highsmith of the Miami Heat during media day at FTX Arena on September 26, 2022, in Miami, Florida. | Eric Espada/Getty Images.

Former Celtics great Bill Russell died July 31 this year, and the NBA quickly went to work with a plan to honor the 12-time All-Star and 11-time champion. The plan to honor Russell was based on more than what he did on the basketball court. Russell was a civil rights activist who affected many, whether or not they played basketball.

One of those impacted by Russell was NBA legend Michael Jordan, who issued a statement shortly after Russell’s death, calling Russell a “pioneer.”

“Bill Russell was a pioneer — as a player, as a champion, as the NBA’s first Black head coach, and as an activist,” Jordan said in a statement, per ESPN. “He paved the way and set an example for every Black player who came into the league after him, including me.”

Less than two weeks after Russell’s death, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Russell’s No. 6 jersey would be retired across the league. Players currently wearing No. 6 will be grandfathered. Silver also said each player will wear a commemorative No. 6 patch on the front of their jersey.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Aug. 11.  “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

In addition to the No. 6 patch, every team will have a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.

The Boston Celtics will also have a special way of honoring Russell


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Russell played all 13 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics. He also succeeded the legendary Red Auerbach, becoming the league’s first Black head coach in 1966 when he became a player/coach. The Celtics plan to honor Russell in their own way.

Boston’s City Jerseys will be a tribute to Russell. The Celtics will wear them 12 times this year, six at home and six on the road.

The Celtics will also host a pair of Russell tribute games to honor the legend with special activities. The first of those nights is Tuesday’s season opener against the 76ers. The other takes place on Feb. 12 when the Celtics host the Memphis Grizzlies. Feb. 12 is Russell’s birthday.

The Celtics will also have a season-long tribute that takes place inside the paint, right where he dominated. Russell made his living on defense. He blocked shots with the best of them and was one of the best rebounders in the game. At TD Garden this year, the Celtics will have the No. 6 inside the paint on both ends of TD Garden.

As the season begins, prepare yourself to see a lot of No. 6. It will be plastered all over jerseys, near the scorer’s table, and in the Boston paint. It’s a well-deserved tribute to a man who made such an impact on and off the court.

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