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Harold Bell’s Tribute To Earl Lloyd (NBA’s First Black Player)


Earl Lloyd

By Harold Bell

Earl Lloyd grew up in Alexandria, Virginia in the shadows of the Nation’s Capitol and played at Parker-Gray High School.  He received a basketball scholarship to West Virginia State in Charleston, West Virginia and played in the CIAA (Central Inter-collegian Athletic Association).  In the 1947-48 season West Virginia State was the only undefeated college basketball team in America.

Earl was drafted by Red Auerbach and the NBA Washington Capitols but played in only 7 games when the team folded on January 9, 1951. He joined the U.S. Army and was station at Fort Sill, Oklahoma before the Syracuse Nationals picked him up on waivers. He spent six seasons with Syracuse and two with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960.

Earl was called “Big Cat and Moon”, he was one of three blacks to enter the NBA at the same time in 1950. It was only because of the order in which the teams’ season openers fell that Lloyd was the first to actually play in a game. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton of the New York Knicks.  Earl played in over 560 games in nine seasons, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Earl retired ranked 43rd in career scoring with 4,682 points. In the 1953-54 season, he was also known as “The Enforcer aka Hatchet Man” he led the NBA in both personal fouls and disqualifications.  His best year was 1955, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for Syracuse, which beat the Forth Wayne Pistons 4-3 for the NBA title. Lloyd and Jim Tucker were the first blacks to play on an NBA championship team.

Earl Lloyd-HB

Left to Right:  NBA Great Sam Jones, Broadcaster James Brown, Harold Bell and NBA Legend Earl Lloyd

Click here to read the rest of Harold Bell’s tribute to Earl Lloyd.

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