Earl Lloyd: The Man Who Broke the NBA’s Color Barrier

While the majority of NBA players today are of color, this wasn’t always the case. On Oct 31, 1950, Earl Lloyd broke the League’s color barrier when he entered the game for the Washington Capitols against the Rochester Royals (which today are now the Sacramento Kings).

While it marked a historical moment, he described it as ordinary in an interview years later.

"Rochester was a sleepy upstate town where schools were integrated and they were used to seeing blacks and whites playing together," he told Jack Saylor of the Detroit Free Press on the 50th anniversary of the game. "The game was totally, unequivocally uneventful except for the date — Oct. 31. Maybe they thought I was a goblin or something."

Two other black players Chuck Cooper and Sweetwater Clifton also made their debuts in the 1950 season, shortly after Lloyd became the first.

In 1955, the Syracuse Nationals won the NBA title, making Lloyd and teammate Jim Tucker the first black players to play for a championship team. Lloyd played a key role on the team, averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, recognizing his contribution to the sport. His speech gave credit to his families, teachers, and coaches for their influence on his achievements.

“It’s easy to be successful when you’re surrounded by greatness,” he said in Springfield.

His contributions to the game extended beyond his playing days. When he joined the coaching staff of the Detroit Pistons in 1968, he became the first African-American assistant coach. He was the second African-American head coach in NBA history when he took over the Pistons in 1971.

Lloyd pioneered a new era of basketball. Breaking the color barrier is a feat that will forever be remembered in NBA history.