Former National Earl Lloyd an NBA Barrier Breaker

In honor of Black History Month, our latest episode of the Sixers History podcast looks back on the life and career of former Syracuse National Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in an NBA game.

To help us out, we got journalist Sean Kirst on the line. Kirst was friends with Lloyd, and co-authored Moonfixer, an autobiography on Earl Lloyd’s life in and out of basketball.

On the podcast, we discuss how Kirst and Lloyd met for the book project, Lloyd’s playing career, and the role he played in breaking barriers.  

Lloyd’s NBA debut came on October 31, 1950, with the Washington Capitols. Earl only played seven games with Washington before being drafted into military service. When he was discharged in 1952, the Caps had folded and his playing rights had been acquired by Syracuse.

Lloyd would spend six seasons with the Nats – making him the first black player in franchise history – and was a starter on the 1955 team that won the franchise’s first championship. Lloyd and teammate Jim Tucker were the first African Americans to win an NBA title.

After spending his final two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, Lloyd retired from playing in the NBA and was hired by Detroit as an assistant coach in 1960. This made Lloyd the first black assistant coach in the four major American sports leagues – the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL.  

Lloyd was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, and passed away on February 26, 2015, at age 86.