Following the death of NBA legend Bill Russell, the league has decided to retire the Hall of Famer’s No. 6 jersey number across the entire association. So, we thought: Who are the best Los Angeles Lakers players to wear No. 6 in franchise history?
Russell, an 11-time NBA champion who died July 31 at age 88, joins MLB’s Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and the NHL’s Wayne Gretzky (No. 99) as the only athletes to have their numbers retired league-wide in major North American sports. Starting with the 2022-23 season, no NBA team will be allowed to issue No. 6 to any player. Players who currently wear No. 6, such as Lakers star LeBron James, may continue to do so.
We don’t know yet if King James will voluntarily change his number this season. We do know that he will be the last Laker player to sport the No. 6. The number doesn’t have the most remarkable history with the franchise, given that it is not one of the 11 others already hanging in the rafters of Crypto.com Arena.
Still, let’s take a look at the top 10 Lakers to wear the same number as the winningest player in NBA history.
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10. Josh McRoberts (2011-2012)
Josh McRoberts spent one forgettable campaign with the Lakers after signing with the team during the 2011-2012 season.
He appeared in 50 games, averaging 14.4 minutes per game. McRoberts wasn’t really a force on either side of the court and could only muster 2.8 points per game. However, he was able to snag 3.4 rebounds per game.
He was eventually included in the blockbuster trade that brought Dwight Howard to LA during the 2012 offseason.
9. Adam Morrison (2009-2010)
The former Gonzaga star and Wooden Award winner never validated Michael Jordan’s decision to select him with the No. 3 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. However, Adam Morrison did end up winning two championship rings riding the bench for the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
He appeared in a combined 39 games for the Lakers. He scored a grand total of 84 points in those 39 games, shooting a dismal 5-for-21 from 3-point range.
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8. Lance Stephenson (2018-2019)
This might be my favorite entry on this list. Like the players before him, Lance Stephenson only played one season with the Lakers.
Stephenson is best known for some memorable playoff battles against LeBron James when he was a member of the Indiana Pacers, and James was playing for the Miami Heat. Who can forget the viral moment when he blew in James’ ear?
The Lance-LeBron rivalry ended once they became teammates in LA during the 2018-2019 season. Stephenson averaged 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game with the Lakers. However, in his limited time, Stephenson made a memorable mark in the hearts of Lakers fans, specifically with his iconically silly air guitar celebration.
7. Chucky Brown (1992)
We’ve arrived at the OG. The first player to wear the No. 6 in Los Angeles Lakers history was Chucky Brown in 1992. That is absurd to think about, considering the Lakers are one of the oldest teams in the NBA and it took decades for anyone to don a specific single-digit number.
Brown only spent one season in LA and was far from impactful. He appeared in 36 games and averaged 3.8 points per game. A fun note to pass along: Brown’s nickname is “Wild Thing,” according to Basketball Reference. That’s just an excellent nickname.
6. Earl Clark (2012-2013)
We are now getting to the players that made some pretty good contributions for the Lakers while wearing the No. 6. Earl Clark also joined the Lakers as a part of the Dwight Howard trade.
The former Louisville standout saw some decent run in his one season with the Lakers. He appeared in 59 games in 2012-13 and even worked his way into Mike D’Antoni’s starting lineup for 36 games. Clark averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game.
5. Maurice Evans (2007-2008)
The man Laker fans might simply call Kobe Bryant’s defensive-minded backup. Maurice Evans technically logged two seasons with the Lakers, but he only played seven games in his second season with the team.
He logged a grand total of 81 games played in the purple and gold. But during his time in LA, he was a serviceable backend rotation player, averaging 8.1 points in 22 minutes per game.
4. Kent Bazemore (2014)
Kent Bazemore was traded to Los Angeles in February 2014 and actually played well for the terrible 27-win Lakers squad. He has carved out a niche for himself as a decent rotation player in the NBA, thanks partly to this season, where he started 25 games with the Lakers while averaging 13.6 points per game on 45.1% shooting.
It was a short stint wearing No. 6 in Laker purple and gold for Bazemore. He would return to Los Angeles in 2021. However, this time Bazemore wore the No. 9 and didn’t have nearly the same impact he had in the No. 6 jersey.
3. Jordan Clarkson (2014-2018)
As we enter the top three, we are now getting into the high-caliber players to wear No. 6 for LA. Jordan Clarkson may be one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA today.
He was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2014-15, the fourth second-round pick in the previous 30 years to accomplish the feat. During his three-plus seasons with the Lakers, he played in 273 games, averaging 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game.
Clarkson signed a four-year, $50 million extension with Los Angeles in 2016. However, he was eventually included in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which essentially opened up the cap space for the Lakers to sign LeBron James.
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2. Eddie Jones (1997-1999)
Before 2021, Eddie Jones would have taken the cake for the best No. 6 in Los Angeles Lakers history. Jones spent 4 1/2 seasons with the Lakers. However, he did not wear the No. 6 until his second season after the team retired Gail Goodrich’s No. 25, which Jones was wearing at the time.
Jones made two All-Star teams with the Lakers, both donning the No. 6, and was quite the scorer for his time. He also earned All-Defense Second Team honors in 1998 before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets to clear up playing time for Kobe Bryant.
1. LeBron James (2021-Present)
Once LeBron James stepped onto the court for the Lakers wearing the No. 6 at the start of the 2021-2022 season, he was the best Laker ever to wear the number.
That’s not a slight against Eddie Jones or Jordan Clarkson, who both had a bit of longevity with the number. However, when one of the top-five basketball players of all time is wearing a specific number, it isn’t hard for people to say he’s the best ever to do so.
In one season, while wearing No. 6 for the Lakers, LeBron led all players in fan votes with his 18th All-Star selection. He finished with a 7.6 box plus-minus and achieved averages of 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.9 3s, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. He was also named to the All-NBA Third Team.