First Black NBA Player Honored 60 Years After Milestone

One of the trailblazers for African-Americans will be honored on the 60th anniversary of his groundbreaking accomplishment.

Earl Lloyd became the first black player in the NBA when he played for the Washington Capitols in an Oct. 31, 1950 game against the Rochester Royals. He ended up playing nine seasons before becoming the first African-American coach in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons.

Tennessee Tech University plans to honor Lloyd at 3 p.m. on Sunday as part of a "Celebrating 60" gathering at the Hooper Eblen Center in Cookeville, Tenn. Lloyd and his wife, Charlita, live in nearby Crossville and have supported Tennessee Tech athletics for years.

Lloyd was one of three African-American players to join the NBA in 1950, though the schedule dictated that he would be the first to play in a game. He scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Washington that day in a 78-70 loss played in front of about 2,200 fans.

Lloyd later told NBA.com that he received no hostility from fellow NBA players over the color of his skin, though fans would often direct racial insults at him.

He started his career with Washington but played just seven games for the Capitols before the franchise folded. He later joined the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers) and helped the team to the NBA title in 1954-55 before finishing his career with the Detroit Pistons.

Now 82 years old, Lloyd never received the attention that Jackie Robinson did for breaking the baseball color barrier three years earlier. He admits his journey wasn't nearly as difficult, and back then, baseball was much more popular than basketball was.

Still, Lloyd's accomplishment eventually put him in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, which enshrined him in 2003. At the time, he mentioned his desire for the other two African-Americans to play in the NBA in 1950--Chuck Cooper and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton--to join him in Springfield, Mass., someday.

In addition to the celebration on Sunday, Tennessee Tech plans to honor Lloyd by starting a charitable foundation. All gifts will be directed to scholarship and educational entities in his honor.

For more information, visit Tennessee Tech's official website.

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