|Lloyd at the White House (Public Domain)|
Long before there was a Michael Jordan, there was an Earl Lloyd. In fact, it was Earl Lloyd who helped to make Michael
Jordan’s reign possible.
Unfortunately, NBA history is not all that well-known. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports points out that Lloyd was “the first
black man to ever play in an NBA game.” Compare his fame to Jackie Robinson’s, and a disparity becomes quite evident.
Breaking the NBA color barrier was a traumatic undertaking. When Lloyd began training camp in 1950, “it was the first time he had ever interacted with whites.”
The racism that Lloyd, along with Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Chuck Cooper, endured was grueling. Regularly being insulted with the “N” word, they were often prohibited from sharing the same restaurants and hotels as teammates. People even taunted them “by asking if they had tails.”
Lloyd later stated: You have to manage your anger. You could quit. But you can never quit.
And he never did.
This great pioneer, who recently passed away at age 86, has a well-earned place “in both African-American and NBA history.”
Copyright February 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved