When the Boston Celtics take the field Tuesday night to open the 2022-23 season, the team will wear a new look to hit storied parquet for the first time at TD Garden.
With dark green, black panels, and gorgeous gold accents throughout, Boston will be releasing its first City Edition jersey a month earlier than the rest of the league. The detailed and memorial design honors the legacy of Bill Russell, the first black coach in the NBA and the first black coach to win a league championship, his mark in basketball, the Greater Boston District, and the league as a whole, and was initially conceived and created with Russell’s contribution prior to his death in July.
“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “The countless accolades he received for his career with the Boston Celtics…are only beginning to tell the story of Bale’s tremendous impact on our league and the broader community. Bale championed something far greater than sport: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he imprinted in The DNA of our dora.
The team initially selected the jerseys for the month of November. Instead, they decided to release the special edition design for the first time when the season began, one of the many ways in which both the team and the National Basketball Association would honor the league icon.
said Nicole Federico, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Content. “Not only in the Celtics and the basketball game, but in Boston as well.”
The Celtics have long turned to simple, classic, and white colors for their primary uniforms, essentially unchanged from the design Russell wore while winning 11 championships and five league MVP awards with the franchise during his 13 seasons in the 1950s and 1960s. .
For the latest City Edition, the annual local team jersey, Nike and Nike designers drew cues from some of Russell’s favorite memories of his time in Boston, the jazz lounge and Slade’s Bar & Grill, which Russell owned during the 1960s. .
Russell hosted visiting civil rights leaders, athletes and celebrities from Muhammad Ali to Martin Luther King Jr. at the restaurant. The “Celtics” font across the front of shirt drafts is from text used throughout the restaurant’s branding during that era, with a thick gold piping border also coined from the Slade logo.
Side panels feature black parquet graphics imitating a court of distinction. 11 gold diamonds are set along the side panels, a nod to Russell’s tally of league titles. His number 6 is in the center of the shorts, surrounded by 11 diamond icons.
“We are grateful that Mr. Russell was able to participate and are proud of this outfit honoring him prior to his death in July,” Federico said. “The Celtics will continue to honor his memory by celebrating his life and legacy throughout the season.”
Teams typically design jerseys two or three seasons in advance, outlining themes and stories for city releases as an initial brief to start the schedule.
“Unfortunately, when people pass by, you think about and take into account their impact on the game and on the community,” said Christopher Arena, NBA president of on-field and brand partnerships. “It’s all of these things at once. All we do is icing on the cake [impact]. “
The Celtics are planning to wear the Russell jersey 11 times this season. The first time they’ll wear the jerseys in a road game will be on December 13, when Boston faces the Los Angeles Lakers, who have met Russell in six NBA Finals. They’ll begin with a Bill Russell Tribute on opening night, with a second home salute game planned against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 12, Russell’s birthday.
At the opening gala this week, the franchise will feature a pre-game gala, with performances by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc and an original piece from poet Porsha Olayola.
The team will also announce its first Bill Russell Mentoring Legacy Award to honor outstanding leaders who exemplify Russell’s dedication to mentoring. After the match, the Celtics plan to withdraw City Edition jerseys signed by their current roster of players, with proceeds benefiting MENTOR, with Russell serving as a founding board member of the organization.
Throughout the league, each arena will display his sixth number in the central check-in area. For the first time in league history, a Boston team has placed numeric script in the key of each side of the field, in honor of Russell’s “dominant play in paint,” according to the team.
“Things happen sometimes for a reason, and now we can celebrate it in a really powerful way that goes beyond a typical patch or poster,” Arena said. “Having this uniform really allows the Celtics to celebrate it for all it deserves.”
While teams often use a commemorative band across the shoulder of the jersey with a number or initials in honor of a former player or CEO, the league-wide addition of the number 6 patch along all 30 of the team’s jerseys is a rarity in league history.
“You’ll see the number 6 on every shirt, in every match, including the All-Star Celebrations,” Arena said.
For the 2001-02 season, all of the team’s jerseys added the American flag stripe after the September 11 attacks. At the 2020 All-Star Game, players on each team wore the No. 24 and No. 2 in honor of Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. During the 2020 NBA bubble, players can add a social justice message from the options menu to the back of their shirts.
While only the digital shirt patch will be worn during this season, the league announced that they will no longer release the number 6, retiring at the league level for the first time. In Major League Baseball, the league’s 42nd wide was retired in honor of baseball major Jackie Robinson.
“The retirement number has always made sense, given his place in the game,” Arena said. “Adam [Silver] He even said, “Bibna Ruth has been alive all these years.” We’re thinking about it in that regard.”
Some franchisees plan to place a banner in their yards to highlight the gesture, as they typically do with numbers of retirees from their franchise.
Players who currently wear the number 6 can continue to wear it on their current team and renew them. If players like Los Angeles Laker LeBron James and Alex Caruso of the Chicago Bulls, who have the #6 jerseys in retail stores and in web stocks, choose to change numbers, they will need to dial a new number.
James thought about his public impact when asked during the media availability of Russell’s retired number.
“This is what should have happened.” He said. “The guy meant a lot to the game, not just to the Boston Celtics, but to the NBA in general. Also, off the ground as well, with what he’s contributed to the black community through his activism.”
In 2009, the league renamed the Trophy for Most Outstanding Player of the Year in the NBA Finals to the Bill Russell Finals MVP Award. Bryant was the first to receive the award, and James has now received four awards. Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors guard, won the last Russell Award given during Russell’s life in Boston.
“It was always fun to see him in games,” James said. “When I had the opportunity to win championships, seeing him with me on the board and awarding me the Bill Russell Award, was one of the most enjoyable moments of my career. … For me to continue living on his legacy by wearing the 6 this year, I will continue to honor his legacy.”
From league-level stickers to shirt patches and programming on all upcoming NBA games and all-star celebrations this weekend, the new Celtics City Edition jerseys will conclude a season-long tribute to the league icon.
“Having the opportunity to make a uniform honoring Mr. Russell, one of the best players ever in the game, was incredibly meaningful to the Celtics,” Federico said.