Basketball’s Jackie Robinson

Basketballs Jackie Robinson

Mawaddah Aminou, staff writer

On October 31st, 1950, Earl Lloyd made black history. At 21 years old, he became the first African American to play in the NBA. Lloyd’s career started in high school, where he was the star of the school’s basketball team. He was also named to the All-South Atlantic Conference three times and the All-State Virginia Interscholastic Conference twice, so he was an outstanding student and player from the start. Although he attended a segregated school in Jim Crow Virginia, that didn’t stop him from shining on the court. He got a scholarship to West Virginia State University, where he continued to play collegiate basketball, and got the nickname “Moon Fixer” for his height. All his hard work paid off when he found out he had been drafted by the Washington Capitols. 

Technically, he was one of three other African American players who had been drafted for the NBA that season, the others being Chuck Cooper and Nat Clifton. Cooper had been drafted by the Celtics and Clifton, the Knicks, but since their seasons didn’t start until November it was Lloyd’s foot who first stepped on the NBA court, changing history forever. 

Although joining an all-white team had been intimidating, his teammates were welcoming and accepting, taking him in with open arms. However, of course, not everyone was so pleased to see a black person on the court and once got called a slur by a fan when the announcer read the lineup. 

He went on to enjoy a long career in basketball, playing for the Syracuse Nationals after returning from serving two years in the military. He ended his playing career with the Detroit Pistons, later becoming their scout and after that, assistant coach. He once again made history, becoming the first full time black head coach for the Pistons in 1970. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 and died in 2015.