Integration and the NBA


Chuck Cooper from Duquesne University 


Soon after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball another professional sports league integrated extraordinarily quickly – the newly formed NBA. But there were still no African-American players in the league when the owners convened for a player draft on April 25, 1950. In the second round, with the 14th pick of the draft, Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown picked Chuck Cooper who had earned All-American honors at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Startled, a fellow owner blurted out, “Walter, don’t you know he’s a colored boy?” Brown responed, “I don’t care if he’s striped, plaid or polka dot.”[2] Race relations had advanced so far in the three years since Robinson’s baseball debut that the Boston papers did not even see the need to include Cooper’s race in its covering of the draft.

In the ninth round of the 1950 draft the Washington Capitols selected Earl Lloyd from West Virginia State University and in the next round Washington added guard Harold Hunter from North Carolina College to the roster. The next day Hunter signed a contract to become the first official black player in the National Basketball Association. [3]

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