Today marks the anniversary that basketball great Earl Lloyd, Sr. became the first African-American in the NBA. Lloyd, who was a student at West Virginia State College, was chosen as a 9th round draft pick by the Washington Capitols. He was unaware that he was chosen until a fellow student on campus mentioned a rumor that he’d be moving to Washington.
Twenty-one year old Lloyd took the court on October 31, 1950 against the Rochester Royals. That same year, the Celtics had drafted a black baller named Chuck Cooper and the New York Knicks enlisted Harlem Globetrotter Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton.
While traveling with the Capitols, Lloyd was rarely allowed to eat at the same restaurants as his white teammates or stay in the same hotels. Lloyd even missed a pre-season game in Spartanburg, South Carolina because of the school’s racist rules – no black players allowed. Months later, the entire Washington Capitols team fell under.
Lloyd was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving in Korea for two years. He returned and signed with the Syracuse Nationals.
After retirement, Earl “The Big Cat” Lloyd became the first black assistant coach in the NBA in 1968 with Detroit. Two years later, Lloyd was named head coach of the Pistons, the first for an African American.
In 2003, Earl Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame