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

US PRESSWIRE Sports Archive
Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

In honor of the legendary Bill Russell, the NBA withdrew its number throughout the league on Thursday. No one will wear number 6 again for the Orlando Magic or Sacramento Kings.

In fact, even before this news, no one would wear No. 6 for the Magic of Kings. Both franchises stopped it for “the sixth man”, that is, their fans. This is the kind of thing you learn when you research who last wore the number for each team and who could wear it last in the entire league.

Players who wear number 6 and go into next season “will get the grandfather,” the NBA announced in a press release. If one of these players changes teams, they can continue to wear the number 6, a league spokesperson said.

This means that, for teams that have not yet withdrawn the number, it is not strictly correct to say that no one will wear it again. That said, here are the players who most recently wore number 6 for each team in the league:

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

So, who might be the last player to wear number 6 on an NBA field? 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)

In addition, David Duke Jr. and Moses Brown a birthday: October 13, 1999.

It’s possible that the last player to wear number 6 in the NBA isn’t in the above group, but those guys will all be 22 or younger when training camp starts in September and will be allowed to wear it for the duration of their careers. Trying to make an informed guess is a good start.

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