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Julius Erving doesn’t think NBA should retire Kobe Bryant’s number league-wide like Bill Russell

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NBA legend Julius Erving doesn’t believe commissioner Adam Silver should retire Kobe Bryant’s number league-wide like he did with the late Bill Russell. 

Unless already worn, no NBA player will be allowed to wear No. 6 moving forward, as Russell’s number will hang in the rafters of every team’s arena across the league. While Erving, who wore No. 6 himself during his career, understands why the NBA chose to do that, he told TMZ that comparing Russell to Bryant wasn’t right.

“I don’t think he should be compared with the Russell situation,” Erving said at LAX Airport. “We're fresh into that but let's see how that works out. Maybe at some point in time. Bill was 86 years old, so address it like that to an 86-year-old – multiple champions, multiple coaching champions, multiple on-and-off the court champion, or whatever – there's no comparison.”

Head coach Julius Erving of the Tri-State looks on during a game at Comerica Center on Aug. 6, 2022, in Frisco, Texas.
(Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images for BIG3)

Erving said that Bryant’s situation should be handled by the Los Angeles Lakers, his former team. They already retired his No. 8 and No. 24 on Dec. 18, 2017, prior to his tragic death on Jan. 26, 2020. 

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“if they wanted to do it, which I think they already have, that makes sense – but for the whole league to do it, probably not,” Erving said. 

Erving added that he played with Bryant’s father, Joe Bryant, who was affectionately nicknamed Jellybean. 

Erving was also good friends with Russell and understands the great impact that he made on the game of basketball, something no other player will be able to do.  

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As a member of the Celtics 1966 championship team, Bill Russell is honored during the Celtics-Miami Heat game at TD Garden on April 13, 2016, in Boston.

As a member of the Celtics 1966 championship team, Bill Russell is honored during the Celtics-Miami Heat game at TD Garden on April 13, 2016, in Boston.
(Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

“Bill was a very special individual and what he did for basketball, no one else could ever do again. So I think it’s completely justified to retire his number,” he said.

“He was a great friend of mine and may he rest in peace.”

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Lakers' Kobe Bryant goes up for a shot against the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Branimir Kvartuc, File)

Lakers' Kobe Bryant goes up for a shot against the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Branimir Kvartuc, File)

Russell, who was 88 years old at the time of his death, was an 11-time NBA champion and was at the helm of two NBA championships as the first Black head coach of any North American professional sports team, let alone the NBA.  

He was also a 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA honoree, five-time MVP and all of that led to an easy Hall of Fame decision.

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Bryant is also in the Hall, having been one of the best players to ever grace the hardwood in the NBA. An 18-time All-Star, Bryant collected five titles as well as the 2007-08 MVP. He was a two-time Finals MVP and a two-time scoring champ.  

Bryant was killed along with this daughter and seven other people when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California, in January 2020.

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