Way before the days of basketball backpacks, there was a man that helped to break the color barrier in the NBA in similar fashion to how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.    It is no secret that most NBA rosters consist mostly of black players in today’s time.  However, the NBA wouldn’t have its 1st black player until 1950.   The 1st black player to play the NBA was an individual by the name of Earl Lloyd. 

Earl Lloyd was born in Alexandra, Virginia on April 3rd 1928.   It was pretty clear early on in his life that he was destined to make an impact in the game in basketball.  Earl Lloyd was an outstanding high school basketball player.  He was an All-Conference player three times as well as an All-State player twice.   He was able to accomplish all of this despite the fact that his high school was segregated.  

Due to his size, Lloyd was nicknamed the “Moon Fixer” during his high school days.  

 Earl Lloyd received a scholarship to West Virginia State University and led his school to two CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament titles.     During his tenure there, he was named All-Conference three times.   He was also a two-time All-American. 

Earl Lloyd would end up being drafted as the 100th pick in the 9th round in the 1950 NBA draft by the Washington Capitals.    He was one of three players that was selected during that particular draft.  The other two players were Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics and Nat Clifton of the New York Knicks.   History would be made on Oct 31st 1950 as Earl Lloyd would break the color barrier when he entered the game against the Rochester Royals in Rochester, NY.   He would score six points.   Chuck Cooper and Nat Clifton would make their debuts shortly after. 

When interviewed about the event years later, he described the event as “ordinary” due to the fact that Rochester was an integrated town that were used to seeing blacks and whites play together.    

Based on the legendary black basketball players that were drafted to the NBA after 1955, it is clear that Earl Lloyd changed the course of NBA History.  Earl Lloyd opened the doors for players such as Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many others.  Their established legacies in the game opened the doors to players such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James.   Whenever you see a black child with a basketball backpack dribbling a basketball, just know that Earl Lloyd had a lot to do with such a scenario. 

In 2003, Earl Lloyd would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game of basketball.

August 28, 2023 — Jeremiah Oglesby