Earl Lloyd the first black player to appear in an NBA game, died Thursday at age 86

Earl Lloyd, the first black player to appear in an NBA game, died Thursday at age 86.

His alma mater, West Virginia State University, confirmed his death in a statement Thursday night.

“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,” WVSU president Brian Hemphill said.

Although Chuck Cooper was the first African-American drafted in the NBA (by the Celtics) and Sweetwater Clifton was the first African-American to sign an NBA contract (with the Knicks), Lloyd broke the color barrier by actually playing in a game, on Oct. 31, 1950, because his Washington Capitols had the earliest game on the schedule that year.

The Capitols lost to Rochester on the night of Lloyd’s debut, and things never got much better for the team. Lloyd, nicknamed “The Big Cat,” ended up playing only seven games for the Capitols before the team folded Jan. 9, 1951.

Lloyd left the NBA at that point to enter the U.S. Army but later returned to the league to play six seasons with the Syracuse Nationals and two with the Detroit Pistons. In 1955, Lloyd also became, along with Nationals teammate Jim Tucker, one of the first African-Americans to play on an NBA championship team.

When Lloyd retired from the NBA in 1960, the future Basketball Hall of Famer had played in more than 560 games, averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest.

“Today society lost a true treasure with the passing of Earl Lloyd. Not enough, but many people know of his pioneering accomplishments in the game of basketball by breaking the color barrier as a player, a champion and a coach in the NBA. Those who had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lloyd know why society, not just basketball, lost a treasure,” WVSU men’s basketball coach Bryan Poore said in the statement. “He was the most humble, caring, positive person I have ever come across. His uplifting spirit made everyone who came in contact with him feel special.”

Written by Nick Endress

Nick Endress

Nick the Quick Endress is an avid fan of basketball and hip hop, and a contributing writer with WJS since 2013. Nick has interviewed rappers, ballers, rapper ballers, and baller rappers on the site and continues to preach that the NBA should have a team in Europe. Maybe because Nick currently lives outside London where to them Football is actually played with your feet, can you believe this fatuousness?