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Mon, 05.24.1943

‘Happy’ Hairston, Basketball Player born

"Happy" Hairston

The birth of Harold “Happy” Hairston in 1943 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black basketball player.

“Happy” Hairston the former Los Angeles Lakers forward was a member of what many consider the greatest basketball team of all time. The 6-foot-7 Hairston attended New York University and was playing for the Detroit Pistons when he was traded to the Lakers in November 1969 for Billy Hewitt. In 1971, coach Bill Sharman took over a team that included Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Jerry West, and Hairston.  After a fractious start, the team went on to win 69 games, including a record 33 straight a winning streak that has never been broken in any professional sport.

The team also collected its first championship after moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1960. Hairston played tough defense and grabbed 13 rebounds a game, helping Chamberlain control the defensive boards. They were considered perfect role players on a team that put a premium on unselfishness. The Lakers didn't lose for more than two months, from Nov. 5, 1971 to Jan. 9, 1972, and most of the victories were by comfortable margins. On Dec. 22, the Lakers won their 27th straight victory, giving them the longest winning streak in major pro sports history, surpassing the 26 in a row by baseball's New York Giants in 1916.

In the years that followed, Hairston led the Lakers in both rebounds and field goal percentage during the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons.  Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 15, 1974, he established the NBA record of 13 defensive rebounds in one quarter. He remained with the Lakers until he was waived in October 1975.

Hairston settled in Marina del Rey and established the Happy Hairston Youth Foundation in Century City.  With financial help from celebrities like Kelsey Grammer, the foundation found bright children from broken homes and paid for their college education. He also hosted a celebrity golf tournament.

Harold Hairston died May 1st 2001 when he was 58. He has a daughter, Amber, and three sisters in North Carolina.

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