The Huffington Post is reporting that Earl Lloyd, the first black NBA player in history, died in Crossville, Tenn. Lloyd was 86.
Lloyd’s death was announced by West Virginia State University, which he attended before his NBA debut in 1950.
Though Lloyd’s entrance into the NBA received little attention, Lloyd along with Sweetwater Clifton and Chuck Cooper, were pioneers for future black NBA players. Lloyd endured racist jeers from spectators in some cities and was subjected to segregation in hotels and restaurants.
Lloyd’s NBA appearance came three years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier for blacks in Major League Baseball.
Lloyd and Jim Tucker became the first two black players on a NBA championship team in 1955, playing for the Syracuse Nationals.
Lloyd was named head coach of the Detroit Pistons in 1971, becoming the fourth black head coach in NBA history, following Boston’s Bill Russell, Seattle’s Lenny Wilkens and Golden State’s Al Attles.
Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2003 for breaking the NBA racial barrier.
Lloyd said he had never encountered racial animosity from his teammates or opposing players, but he remembered taunts from spectators. Lloyd told The Syracuse Herald American in 1992:
‘Those fans in Indianapolis, they’d yell stuff like, ‘Go back to Africa’. My philosophy was, if they weren’t calling you names, you weren’t doing nothing. If they’re calling you names, you were hurting them.”
Lloyd also recounted how a hotel manager in Baltimore refused to give him a room during a Nationals trip in the early 1950s. Despite the protests of Al Cervi (Lloyd’s coach), he still left the hotel in an effort to avoid trouble.
In the book They Cleared the Lane: The N.B.A.’s Black Pioneers, Cervi is quoted as saying:
“I owe Earl a lot of thanks. He’s an unsung star. Anybody can score. Lloyd was an excellent defensive player. That was No. 1 on my roster.”
Lloyd is survived by his wife, Charlita, sons, Kenneth, Kevin and David and four grandchildren. He was 86.
For more information, visit the HuffingtonPost.
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