On this day in 1950, the 21-year-old Earl Francis Lloyd made his first season debut for the Washington Capitols, and as the first black person to play in the NBA.
Born in Alexandria, Virginia on April 3, 1928 to a father who worked in the coal industry and a stay-at-home mom, Earl Lloyd received a scholarship to play basketball at West Virginia State. At West Virginia State, he became the new superstar of the championship basketball team. Unaware the NBA would draft him, until a friend told him that she heard he was moving out of the state to Washington. Later it became obvious that the Capitols had selected him in the ninth round of the draft. In addition, the NBA also drafted three other black players that same year.
Celtics, New York Knicks and Tri-Cities Blackhawks selected Chuck Cooper, Nathaniel Clifton and Hank DeZonie respectively. However, the other teams did not start the 1950-51 NBA season until November, which makes Earl Lloyd become the first African-American to play in the National Basketball Association.
Lloyd later recalled that joining a white dominated team was at first scary but most of his teammates had played in college teams (where it was a mixture of different race) were friendly and made him feel at ease. However, the first match of the season was a little bit frightening when some fans shout in disgust as the announcer read the Capitols lineup for the game. It was reported by a fan, a white man who sat in the front row yelled: "do y'all think this black man can play any basketball?" but got a reply from Lloyd's mother who sat at the next role answered, and assured the man not to worry, that "the nigger can play."
Having played only seven games with the Capitols, he was enlisted into the army and sent to Korea for two years. After his return to the United States, his former club had already gone out of the league; therefore, he joined the Syracuse Nationals (now known as Philadelphia 76ers). Lloyd played for a total number of nine seasons and retired his career in Detroit.
After his retirement, he worked in the Motor City before becoming the assistant coach for the Pistons. He later became the first black head coach of a team in the NBA league, coaching the Detroit team for a year; afterwards, he moved to work in the police department and finally as a school administrator. In 2003, Earl Francis Lloyd was accepted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.