Empowering and Inspiring. One Generation to the Next.

The Cleveland Cavaliers Annual Black Heritage Celebration (BHC) is the Cavs expanded salute to Black History Month in February, recognizes the remarkable accomplishments of African American icons and lesser known contributors who have paved the path for future generations.

“There are countless stories of African Americans from Northeast Ohio and across the country who have overcome obstacles and hardships to bring about change and opportunity for others,” said Campy Russell, Cavaliers Legend and Director of Alumni Relations. “The goal of the Cavs BHC is to continue to educate and tell these stories, honor those who have broken down racial barriers, acknowledge the leaders of today who stand on the shoulders of those who have come before them, and to pass the torch and inspire the budding heroes of tomorrow that represent our future.”

Game/Event Schedule

2018 Honorees

Charles Henry "Chuck" Cooper

Chuck Cooper played basketball and graduated from Westinghouse High School and attended West Virginia State before entering the Navy during World War II. After his service, Cooper attended Duquesne University and was one of the first Black All-Americans. On April 25, 1950 Cooper broke the color barrier in the NBA when he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. He played for six seasons and with fellow rookie and roommate Bob Cousy they revitalized a mediocre team. He then played a season for the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks and the Fort Wayne Pistons, before finishing his career outside the NBA with the Harlem Magicians.

Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton

One of the first three African-American players in the NBA, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton was actually the first under official contract to play in the league. Clifton made his NBA debut with the New York Knicks on November 3, 1950 and the Knicks made the NBA finals during each of Clifton's first three years. He averaged 8.6 points per game as a rookie and cracked double digits in his second year. Clifton played for three seasons in major league baseball's farm system, the AA-level team in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1978, Clifton passed away on August 31, 1990.

Earl Lloyd

A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Earl Francis Lloyd led West Virginia State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships in 1948 and 1949. Nicknamed "The Big Cat", he was one of three African-Americans to enter the NBA at the same time. It was only because of the order in which the teams' season openers fell that Lloyd was the first to actually play in an NBA game. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of Charles Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of the New York Knicks. Lloyd 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.

Wayne Embry

While Wayne Embry enjoyed a solid playing career, his overall impact on basketball stems from both his on-court and off-court activities. He was a rugged forward-center for eleven professional seasons with the Cincinnati Royals, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks who never minded mixing it up under the basket. Embry finally reached the pinnacle in 1968 when he won an NBA championship with the Celtics. In 1971, Embry was named Milwaukee’s general manager, becoming the first African-American to hold that position in the NBA. From 1985 to 1992, he was vice-president and general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and became the NBA's first African-American team president with the Cavaliers in 1994. In Cleveland's first 16 years, the Cavs averaged 31 wins and four playoff appearances, but under Embry’s guidance the club averaged 45 wins and made nine playoff appearances over the next twelve years. In 2004 Embry was named Senior Basketball Advisor for the Toronto Raptors. The Sporting News named Embry the NBA Executive of the Year in 1992 and 1998 (Basketball Hall of Fame).

Cadet Simone Askew

Cadet Simone Askew is the first African-American woman to be named first captain at West Point, the highest-ranking position at the Academy commanding a brigade of 4,400 cadets. It's a role previously held by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and four-star Army generals who currently command forces in South Korea and Afghanistan. Simone was recently selected as one of 32 U.S. students awarded a Rhodes scholarship. She looks forward to studying women's studies and social intervention at Oxford, England in the United Kingdom and putting that knowledge to good use in the U.S. Army Engineer Corps when she commissions into the active Army this May.

Lusia Harris-Stewart

Considered to be a pioneer of the game, Lusia Harris-Stewart is the first and only women to be drafted into the NBA. Known for her dominance in the paint as one of the greatest centers ever to play women's basketball, Harris-Stewart was picked by the New Orleans Jazz in 1977 but never played a game in the league. During her four-year career at Delta State University where she played under Hall of Fame coach Margaret Wade, Harris-Stewart changed the face of women's basketball. Harris-Stewart was a member of the first-ever women's silver medal Olympic team in 1976, and held the distinction of being the team's leading scorer and leading rebounder. She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Yvonne Wright

Yvonne Wright is a Northeast Ohio High School Sports legend, coaching girls volleyball and basketball at Glenville and John Hay High Schools for 34 years, winning over 450 games and 11 Senate League titles. Through teamwork, integrity and a strong work ethic, Wright has made lasting imprints on the lives of many young women in the Cleveland area and is a role model for many. She has inspired Cleveland youth with the philosophy of believing in one’s self, keeping dreams and goals in sight, and setting high standards for others in the community. Today, Wright continues to give back by coaching in the Cavaliers Youth Academy and volunteers at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Marcus Graham Project

In addition to the celebration on the court, the Cavs have teamed up with the Marcus Graham Project to host the 4th annual Sports Marketing Workshop for diverse students and professionals interested in the sports marketing career field. The workshop took place January 31st through February 3rd at Quicken Loans Arena. The Marcus Graham Project is a network of diverse professionals formed with the purpose of developing the next generation of leadership by mentoring and training ethnically diverse men and women in all aspects of the advertising, media and marketing industry.

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