NBA: Earl Lloyd Passes Away At Age 86

Posted on Friday, February 27, 2015

The man who helped pave the way for every African-American player, from Wilt Chamberlain to LeBron James, has passed away at age 86.

Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in the NBA, died Thursday, according to Tom Leyden of Detroit television station WXYZ.

Lloyd became the first black player to appear in an NBA game when he suited up with the Washington Capitols on Oct. 31, 1950. The road ahead was difficult and cruel for Lloyd and other African-American players of that time. He was joined by Charles Cooper and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton in the 1950-51 season.

“(Fans) would say stuff like, ‘Go back to Africa,'” Lloyd told NBA.com before his death. “And I’m telling you, you would often hear the N-word. That was commonplace. There were a lot of people who sat close to you who gave you the blues, man.” 

But the former West Virginia State star persevered and went on to win a championship in 1955 with the Syracuse Nationals. He finished his decade long playing career with the Pistons. Lloyd ranked 43rd in career scoring with 4,682 points at the time of his retirement.

He later became one of the NBA’s first African-American coaches as he led the Pistons through the 1971-72 season and part of 1972-73. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2003.

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