Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25 1950: Chuck Cooper becomes the first African American to be drafted into the NBA

On April 25, 1950, Chuck Cooper became the first African American to be drafted by an NBA team when the Boston Celtics picked him with the 12th pick of the second round. Fellow African Americans Earl Lloyd and Harold Hunter would be drafted in the later rounds, then Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton and Hank DeZonie would sign free agent deals as basketball worked toward integration. Harold Hunter never did play a game in the NBA and DeZonie quit after just 5 games due to discrimination and disagreements with his coach. Cooper, Lloyd, and Clifton would put together solid careers. Clifton played for 7 years, in his first season he helped the Knicks reach the Finals where they lost in 7 games. By 1957 Clifton was a member of the Pistons, that season he became the the oldest player to be named to an all star game at the age of 34.  Lloyd played nine seasons in the NBA and won a Championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, that season Lloyd and Jim Tucker became the first African Americans to play on an NBA championship team. Cooper's career did not come with great accolades. He played just four years in Boston before being traded to the Milwaukee Hawks, after a couple of years in a Hawks uniform he was released then signed with the Fort Wayne Pistons, he spent one year with the Pistons before retiring. Everyone of these men were pioneers in the NBA, they endured the same abuse that Jackie Robinson did in baseball, much like Jackie they were brave as they fought through it and paved the way for many men to follow.

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