LeBron James has made the headlines again after making the switch to wear No. 6 for the LA Lakers beginning the 2021-22 NBA season. He will be letting go of his No. 23 jersey for the second time in his career, after wearing No. 6 during his four years with the Miami Heat.
But the LA Lakers forward isn’t the only NBA legend to be associated with the No. 6 jersey as there have been no fewer than five iconic names associated with it.
LeBron James’ NBA career wearing #6 jersey
When he put on the No. 6 jersey for the Heat, King James averaged 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per night. He won two championships, two MVPs and two Finals MVPs during the brief time that he donned the number. There are those who believe that James’ best years happened in the short time that he wore No. 6.
As he prepares to rock the jersey number in a Lakers uniform next season, let’s take a look at the other NBA luminaries who wore it.
1. Bill Russell
Accomplishments: 11x NBA champion, 5x MVP, 12x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1x All-Star MVP, 1x All-Defensive Team, 4x rebounding champion, Hall of Fame (1975)
Career averages: 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists
Arguably the greatest winner in all of sports, Bill Russell won 11 championships during his illustrious 13-year career. The Boston Celtics won an NBA record eight straight titles during his career and won back-to-back titles as a player-coach during his final two seasons.
Russell is widely considered to be the greatest big man defender in NBA history and one of the greatest players in the game, period. His length and athleticism helped him block many enemy missiles which led to the Celtics’ vaunted fastbreak.
The league honored Russell by naming the award for the best player in the Finals as the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. His No. 6 jersey hangs in the rafters of TD Garden.
2. Julius Erving
Accomplishments: 1x NBA champion, 1x MVP, 16-time All-Star, 2x All-Star MVP, 7x All-NBA, J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (1983), Hall of Fame (1993)
Career averages: 22.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.5 blocks
One of the greatest players to wear the No. 6 jersey is Julius Erving or Dr. J to most of us. The doctor was the precursor to Michael Jordan, one who soared to the air with the greatest of ease while dunking ferociously on his opponents. He played his first five years in the ABA before playing the rest of his playing career in the NBA.
As a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Erving won the 1981 NBA MVP and an NBA championship in 1983. He was an All-Star every year that he played and always conducted himself with grace and class every time he stepped on the court.
He called it quits in 1987 at the age of 37 and the Sixers soon retired his jersey No. 6.
3. Walter Davis
Accomplishments: 1978 Rookie of the Year, 1977-78 All-Rookie Team, 6x All-Star, 2x All-NBA
Career averages: 18.9 points, 3.8 assists, 1.2 steals
The Phoenix Suns selected Walter Davis with the No. 5 overall pick of the 1977 NBA Draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year honors. Unusually, his rookie year was the best-scoring season of his career when he put up 24.2 points per game. He was so good that year that he was given a spot on the Second Team All-NBA, a rare achievement for a rookie.
He was one of the purest scorers in the NBA during his heyday, averaging 20 or more points six times in his 15-year career. The sweet-shooting Davis played 11 seasons for the Phoenix Suns where he was one of their top players. The Suns retired his No. 6 jersey after becoming the franchise’s leader in career points with 15,666.
4. Patrick Ewing
Accomplishments: 1986 Rookie of the Year, 1985-86 All-Rookie Team, 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 3x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame (2008)
Career averages: 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 2.4 blocks
Patrick Ewing wore No. 6 during the 2001-02 season as a member of the Orlando Magic. This was Ewing’s 17th and final NBA season, closing the chapter on a storied career that was missing a championship. His best days were clearly behind him by this time as he finished the year, averaging career-lows of 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Drafted No. 1 overall in 1985 by the New York Knicks, the Georgetown product quickly proved his worth by earning the Rookie of the Year Award. Ewing was a force in the middle, averaging 20.0 or more points in 13 of his 15 years playing for the fans at Madison Square Garden. He brought the Knicks to the brink of a title in 1995 when they battled Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, but lost in seven games.
5. Ben Wallace
Accomplishments: 1x NBA champion, 4x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 4x Defensive Player of the Year, 6x All-Defensive Team, 2x rebounding champion, Hall of Fame (2021)
Career averages: 5.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.0 blocks
Ben Wallace wore No. 6 during his second stint with the Detroit Pistons from 2009-10 to 2011-12 before retiring from the NBA. Though he was already at the tailend of his career by this time, Pistons fans revered him for anchoring one of the best defensive basketball teams ever.
The 6-foot-9 center was a defensive demon who protected the paint for the 2000-01 to 2005-06 Pistons teams that reached the NBA Finals twice and won a championship in 2004. He is one of only two players to have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award four times in his career.
Wallace was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last month and he will be enshrined in September of this year.