Ever since Bill Russell‘s passing was announced, many have paid tribute to the Boston Celtics legend. That includes Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Following Russell’s death, Johnson has repeatedly voiced his appreciation for Russell’s impact both on and off the court. On August 2, 2022, Johnson proposed an idea to the NBA for how they can pay tribute to Russell’s legacy.
Johnson proposed to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that the league retire the number six across the league in Russell’s honor.
Doing so would mean that LeBron James, who currently plays for the Lakers, would have to change his number to a different one among the other players in the league who would have to do the same.
Many approved of Johnson’s proposal because they too agree that Russell’s legacy, both inside and outside the NBA, was that important.
Chris Mannix quote tweeted Magic by referencing an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated in which he expressed a similar sentiment.
There wasn’t unanimous support for Johnson’s proposal, but there was more than enough approval to demonstrate the kind of impact Russell left. Johnson has also recently talked about his relationship with Russell following his death.
Johnson Spoke Highly of Russell’s Character
Johnson went on to praise Russell for his humility as a person even with all the success he had. He also praised Russell’s intelligence and how much he fought for civil rights.
“Despite all of his achievements, he was so humble, a gentle giant, a very intelligent man, and used his voice and platform to fight for Black people. Since the day we met, he mentored me and shared advice.”
It didn’t stop there. Johnson also detailed his personal relationship with Russell while relaying what he’ll never forget about Russell on a personal level.
“Later in life, he never missed an opportunity to tell me how proud he was of me for what I was doing for Black America throughout the country. I will forever remember his cackling laugh, sense of humor, and love for the game of basketball.”
Even though he played for the one team Russell duked it out with during his playing days, it’s clear that Johnson’s and Russell’s relationship transcended the game of basketball.
However, it wasn’t just Johnson’s rapport with Russell that he treasured. He also looked up to Russell because of his accomplishments.
Johnson Called Russell His Idol
Johnson made it known how much he looked to Russell because of his career accomplishments as well as being a trailblazer for guys like Johnson.
“Bill Russell was my idol. I looked up to him on the court and off. His success on the court was undeniable; he was (dominant) and great, winning 11 NBA championships. Off the court, Bill Russell paved the way for guys like me.”
Johnson also made note that he idolized Russell in part because Russell inspired him to do more for the African American community because he used his platform to do just that both during and after his playing days.
“He was one of the first athletes on the front line fighting for social justice, equity, equality, and civil rights. That’s why I admired and loved him so much. Over the course of our friendship, he always reminded me about making things better in the Black community.”
Clearly, Russell meant the world to Johnson, and he wanted the world to know just how much he meant to him as many other NBA legends did.