The first African American player in NBA history, Earl Lloyd died at age 86
The first African American player in NBA history, Earl Lloyd died at age 86, Thursday February 26, 2015. West Virginia State, Lloyd’s alma mater, confirmed his death. However they did not provide any details.
“The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understated. He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class, and pride. His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate, and the entire NBA family will strive to always honor his memory. Our deepest condolences to the Lloyd family.”
Lloyd nicknamed “The Big Cat” was selected in the ninth-round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Washington Capitols on October 31, becoming the first black man to ever play in an NBA game against the Rochester Royals. He made his debut just before Sweetwater Clifton and Chuck Cooper, fellow black players played their first games.
Virginia State president Brian Hemphill said in a statement, “The State family mourns the loss of a fellow Yellow Jacket and trailblazer who was a true champion both on and off of the basketball court,When Earl stepped out on the court on that fateful date in 1950, this remarkable man rightfully earned his place in the historic civil rights movement and, more important, he opened the door to equality in America.”
Vince Carter from the Memphis Grizzlies was among many current NBA players using Twitter to express their gratitude to Lloyd while offering their condolences to his family, “RIP to Mr. Earl Lloyd you opened that ever so important door for all African American athletes. Thank You!!!! ‘s up to your family,” he wrote.