The NBA recently lost one of its biggest icons with the passing of Bill Russell at the age of 88. It was a blow to the entire basketball community, with tributes pouring in from everywhere for the Celtics legend. Russell was honored not just for his legendary winning record during his time in the league, but also for everything he did off the court to help improve the conditions for minorities in the United States of America.
Russell's name had already been honored by the NBA when they named the Finals MVP trophy after the legendary big man. But there was a further gesture available to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The league honored Russell's legacy by retiring his No. 6 across the entire NBA,
And while no one could dispute that this was extremely well-deserved, some started asking for some other legends to be also honored in the same way. Most notably, Kobe Bryant, who passed away in a terrible accident in 2020. Bryant also had a huge impact and influence on the league, but NBA icon Julius Erving spoke to TMZ Sports, saying he doesn't think the former Lakers legend should have his jersey retired across the league.
"I don't think he should be compared with the Russell situation," Erving said of Kobe out at LAX. "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.
"I wouldn't even try to compare Kobe Bryant to Russell."
Erving went on to add that the onus to honor the Black Mamba would be with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that he played for his entire career.
"It's more of a franchise situation with the Lakers," Erving said. "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."
This is a pretty blunt take from Dr. J, but he does make some valid points. There may come a point when Kobe's legacy is similarly honored, but his career was quite recent. Retiring jerseys league-wide is also something that has not happened often before, so surely it will be done only in the most special of situations.