How the Boston Celtics and the NBA will honor Bill Russell — Andscape


When the Boston Celtics take to the field on Tuesday night to open their 2022-23 season, the team will don a fresh new look on their legendary court for the very first time at TD Garden.

With dark dark green, black panels and gold trophy accents throughout, Boston will release its City Edition jersey a month before the rest of the league. Detailed, commemorative design honors the legacy of Bill Russell, the NBA’s first black coach and the first black coach to win a league championship, and his mark across basketball, the greater Boston area and the league as a whole, and was originally conceived and created with input from Russell before his death in July.

“Bill Russell was the greatest champion of any team sport,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “The countless accolades he won for his storied career with the Boston Celtics…only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and society at large. Bill represented something good bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inscribed in our league’s DNA.

The team originally planned the shirts for November. Instead, they decided to release the special edition design at the start of the season, one of the many ways the team and the NBA will honor the league icon.

“When we started working on this City Edition concept almost two years ago, we were able to get feedback from the current team and community leaders to fully understand the scale of Russell’s impact” , said Nicole Federico, senior vice president of marketing and the Boston Celtics. contents. “Not just about the Celtics and basketball, but also about Boston.”

The Celtics have long leaned on their simple, classic green and white colors for their primary uniforms, which are essentially unchanged from the design Russell wore while winning 11 championships and five league MVP awards with the franchise during his tenure. 13 seasons in the 1950s and 1960s.

For their new City Edition, the annual locally-themed jersey created by Nike teams, franchise and designers draws inspiration from some of Russell’s favorite memories from his time in Boston, namely the jazz lounge and restaurant at soul food Slade’s Bar & Grill, which Russell owned in the 1960s.

Russell has hosted civil rights leaders, athletes and celebrities from Muhammad Ali to Martin Luther King Jr. at the restaurant. The “Celtics” font on the front of the jersey is inspired by the script used in the restaurant’s branding at that time, with thick gold piped borders also taken from the Slade logo.

The side panels feature a tonal black parquet pattern, mimicking the franchise field. Eleven gold diamonds are set along the side panels, a nod to Russell’s league-leading title tally. His No. 6 is on the center waistband of the shorts, surrounded by 11 diamond icons.

Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics’ first black coach, poses for a photo in 1996 with 11 of his championship rings.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

“We are grateful that Mr. Russell was able to get involved and are proud of this uniform which honors him before his passing in July,” Federico said. “The Celtics will continue to honor his memory by celebrating his life and legacy throughout the season.”

Typically, teams design kits two or three seasons in advance, with themes and scenarios for City Editions identified as an initial brief to start the timeline.

“Unfortunately, when people pass by, you reflect and consider their impact on the game and on society,” said Christopher Arena, NBA’s head of on-court partnerships and brand. “He is all of these things at once. Everything we do is the culmination of this [impact].”

The Celtics plan to wear the Russell jerseys 11 times this season. The first time they’ll wear the jerseys for a road game will be on Dec. 13, when Boston takes on the Los Angeles Lakers, who Russell has met in six NBA Finals. They will begin with the opening night Bill Russell Tribute Game, with a second home Tribute Game scheduled against the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 12, Russell’s birthday.

For the home opener this week, the franchise will offer a pregame ceremony, featuring performances by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc and an original piece by Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola.

The team will also announce the first Bill Russell Mentoring Legacy Award to recognize outstanding leaders who exemplify Russell’s dedication to mentorship. After the game, the Celtics plan to raffle autographed City Edition jerseys signed by the current roster, with proceeds benefiting MENTOR, where Russell served as a founding member of the organization’s board of directors.

Boston Celtics

Across the league, each arena will feature its #6 in the central check-in area. For the first time in league history, Boston is placing digital text in the key on either side of the field, paying homage to Russell’s “dominant play in the paint,” according to the team.

“Sometimes things happen for a reason, and now we’re able to celebrate that in a really robust way beyond a typical patch or decal,” Arena said. “Having this uniform really allows the Celtics to celebrate him in all he deserves.”

While teams often use a commemorative strip on the shoulder of the shirt with a number or initials honoring a former player or manager, the league-wide addition of a No. 6 crest along 30 team jerseys represents a rarity in league history.

“You’ll see the number 6 on every jersey, every game, including All-Star festivities,” Arena said.

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics wears the number 6 on the jersey honoring the late Boston Celtics player-coach Bill Russell October 2 at TD Garden in Boston.

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

For the 2001–02 season, all team jerseys added an American flag ribbon after the September 11 attacks. During the 2020 All-Star Game, players from each team wore No. 24 and No. 2 in honor of Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. During the 2020 NBA bubble, players could add a social justice message from a list of options on the back of their jersey.

While the jersey number patch will only be worn during this season, the league has announced that it will no longer issue the No. 6, retiring a league-wide number for the first time. In Major League Baseball, No. 42 is retired from the league in honor of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.

“Retiring the number was always a logical thing, given his stature in the game,” Arena said. “Adam [Silver] even said, ‘Our Babe Ruth was alive all these years.’ We think of him in this regard.

Some franchises are considering placing a banner in their arenas to mark the gesture, as they usually do for their own franchise’s retired numbers.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James during a preseason game Oct. 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Players who currently wear No. 6 can continue to wear it in their current squad and are grandfathered. If players such as Los Angeles Laker LeBron James and Chicago Bulls’ Alex Caruso, who have No. 6 jerseys in retail stores and online store inventories, choose to change numbers, they will need to request a new one. number.

James reflected on his overall influence when asked during a media availability about Russell’s number being taken down.

“That’s what should have happened” he said. “The man meant so much to the game, not just to the Boston Celtics, but to the NBA in general. Also, off the floor as well, with what he brought to the black community with his activism.

NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant (center) of the Los Angeles Lakers receives the MVP trophy from NBA legend Bill Russell (right) and NBA commissioner David Stern (left) after the Lakers won the title against the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In 2009, the league renamed its annual NBA Finals Most Outstanding Player trophy the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award. Bryant was the first to receive the award, with James now the owner of four trophies. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry won the last Russell Award given during Russell’s lifetime in Boston.

“It was always a treat to see him at games,” James said. “When I had the opportunity to win championships, seeing him on the panel with me and presenting me with the Bill Russell award was one of the most delightful moments of my career. … For me to continue to live on his legacy by wearing 6 this year, I will continue to honor his legacy.

From league-wide decals to jersey patches and lineups of upcoming NBA highlights and All-Star Weekend festivities, the Celtics’ new City Edition jerseys will complete a season-long tribute to a league icon.

“Having the opportunity to create a uniform that honors Mr. Russell, one of the best to ever play the game, has been incredibly meaningful to the Celtics organization,” Federico said.

Nick DePaula is a footwear industry and lifestyle writer at Andscape. The Sacramento, Calif. native has been based in Portland, Oregon for a decade, a primary hub for the sneaker company’s headquarters. He’ll often say that How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days is actually an underrated movie, largely because it’s the only time his Sacramento Kings have made it to the NBA Finals.


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