Black History Daily: Who was the First Black to play in the NBA? (2298 hits)
In 1947 the first black to play in the NBA was Earl Lloyd (1928-?) of West Virginia State College, a forward for the Washington Capitols. Although he was recruited later than Charles Cooper and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, he became the first to play (by one day) because of a quirk in NBA scheduling. Though Lloyd played ten seasons with Washington, Syracuse, and Detroit, his NBA statistics were modest. Nevertheless, he and Jim Tucker, a teammate, were the first black players to be on a championship NBA team, when the Syracuse Nationals won the title in 1952. Lloyd’s last team was the Detroit Pistons. He played with them from 1958 to 1960. When he retired from play, he was named the Pistons’ first black assistant coach; he became the first black nonplaying coach eleven years later, in 1971 with the Pistons, a position from which he was fired in 1973. He was also the first black chief scout in the NBA.
Lloyd was raised in Alexandria, Virginia. He attended West Virginia State College, an all-black institution, and is quoted as saying that until the Capitols drafted him he had never even talked to a white person. He considered playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, but went with the Capitols, where he faced racial prejudice from fans along the way. When Lloyd left basketball, he started a new career with the Detroit public schools. He later worked for the auto parts company owned by Dave Bing, one of the black players he had coached on the Pistons. By 2000 Lloyd was retired and living in Tennessee. On the fiftieth anniversary of their entry into the NBA games, the NBA honored Lloyd, Clifton, and Cooper at Madison Square Garden in November 2000.
Sources: Black Firsts, Jessie Carney Smith, pgs 646-647.