Earl Lloyd, NBA pioneer, dies at 86

Earl Lloyd, the first African-American man to play in the NBA, died Thursday at the age of 86.

Lloyd was a ninth-round pick by the Washington Capitols in 1950 as one three black players drafted by the league that year. The others were Chuck Cooper and Nat Clifton.

Lloyd, a 6-foot-6 forward, broke the NBA color barrier on Oct. 31, 1950, when he entered a game against the Rochester Royals.

He played seven games for Washington before getting drafted into the Korean War. Two years later, he joined the Syracuse Nationals, who later became the Philadelphia 76ers. He spent six seasons with the franchise and won an NBA title in 1955. He went on to win two more with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960.

He averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over his career.

Lloyd became the Pistons’ first African-American head coach in 1971-72, but he lasted just one season in that role.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 as a contributor.

Bryan Poore, the men’s basketball coach at Lloyd’s alma mater, West Virginia State, said in a statement, “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.

“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.”


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