Before there was LeBron James, there was Michael Jordan and before him, there was Magic Johnson. Before either Johnson or Jordan dominated the league, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson set the stage for the National Basketball Association. While Russell, Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlin did wonders for the league, there was a man who proceeded them. His name was Earl Lloyd.
In 1950, Lloyd became the first Black man to play in the NBA when he suited up for the Washington Capitols. In seven games, he averaged six points and six rebounds for the team as the struggled toward a 10-25 finish. After taking a year off to serve in the military, Lloyd returned to the NBA and finished out a nine-year playing career that included stops in Syracuse and Detroit. His impact on the league extended beyond his playing days. Shortly after his playing career finished, he earned a spot as the first Black assistant coach in the NBA. The Detroit Pistons later hired him to become the team's first Black head coach.
Lloyd's career has been recognized in a number of ways. In 1998, he was inducted into the CIAA Hall of Fame. Three years later, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore named February 9 "Earl Lloyd Day" across the state. More than forty years after finishing his final season as a head coach, Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, his life came to an end in 2014, but many are still finding ways to honor his legacy.
Lloyd's hometown of Alexandria, Virginia is erecting a statue in his honor. A matching statue has also been placed in the town's Charles Houston Recreation Center.
“When you see a man who came from humble beginnings as we all did, from total segregation, it was separate but unequal in terms of facilities and amenities,” Lloyd's close friend, JimmyLewis, told NBC Washington.
“We’re so proud we can call him our own, and all throughout his accomplishments...he remained the same kind, humble, generous and always selfless Earl Lloyd."
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