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Tue, 04.03.1928

Earl Lloyd, one of the first Black NBA players

Earl Lloyd

*On this date we mark the birth of Earl Lloyd in 1928. He was a Black basketball player, the first Black man to play in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game.

A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Earl Francis Lloyd led West Virginia State University to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships in 1948 and 1949. He was named All-Conference three times (1948-50), and was All-American twice as named by the Pittsburgh Courier (1949-50). As a senior, he averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game while leading West Virginia State to a second place finish in the CIAA Conference and Tournament Championship. In 1947-48, West Virginia State was the only undefeated team in the United States.

Nicknamed "The Big Cat", he was one of three African Americans to enter the NBA at the same time. It was only because of the order in which the teams' season openers fell that Lloyd was the first to actually play in an NBA game. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of Charles Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of the New York Knicks. Lloyd played in over 560 games in nine seasons, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Lloyd played in only seven games for the Washington Capitols before the team folded on January 9, 1951. He then went into the Army at Fort Sill, Okla., before the Syracuse Nationals picked him up on waivers. He spent six seasons with Syracuse and two with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960. Lloyd retired ranked 43rd in career scoring with 4,682 points. His best year was 1955, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for Syracuse, and the Nationals won the NBA title by defeating the Fort Wayne Pistons four games to three. Lloyd and Jim Tucker were the first African Americans to play on an NBA championship team.

Lloyd once said, "In 1950 basketball was like a babe in the woods, it didn't enjoy the notoriety that baseball enjoyed." Like Lloyd, Clifton and Cooper had solid but not spectacular careers. After retiring as a player, Lloyd was a Detroit Pistons assistant coach for two seasons and a scout for five. He and his wife, Ginny, had one child. Earl Lloyd died on February 26th 2015 at the age of 86.

The World Book Encyclopedia.
World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

Image: HistoryMakers

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