Earl Lloyd
National Visionary

Born April 3, 1928 in Alexandria, Virginia

First African American to play in a NBA game

Earl Lloyd, Hall of Fame basketball player and coach, paved the way for future generations of African Americans when he became the first African American to play in the National Basketball Association.

Lloyd was born April 3, 1928 in Alexandria, Virginia, to parents Theodore Lloyd, Sr. and Daisy Lloyd. His father worked in a coal yard and his mother was a domestic. As a high school basketball star, Lloyd was named to the All-South Atlantic Conference three times and the All-State Virginia Interscholastic Conference twice. While Lloyd attended segregated schools, he credits his family and teachers with giving him positive reinforcement and contributing to his later success in life.  

Lloyd graduated from Parker-Grey High School in 1946, earning a scholarship to West Virginia State. Lloyd led the Yellow Jackets to two CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) championships in 1948-49 and was named to the All-American team twice by the Pittsburgh Courier in 1949-50. Nicknamed "Moon Fixer" in his school days because of his size, Lloyd excelled at defensive positions, letting many scoring plays go to others.

After graduating from West Virginia State in 1950, Lloyd was drafted into the NBA by the Washington Capitols. On October 31, 1950 Lloyd started in his first professional basketball game (against the Rochester Royals), making him the first African American to play in the NBA.  

Lloyd was one of only four blacks drafted into pro teams that year and his debut that Halloween night was the first to break basketball's race barrier. Due to scheduling, Lloyd played one day ahead of "Chuck" Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of the New York Knicks.

After seven games, Lloyd was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He returned to basketball in 1952, and was picked up by the Syracuse Nationals (the Capitols had split in 1951.)   He played six seasons with the Nationals and, along with teammate Jim Tucker, led the team to the 1955 championships. The two became the first African Americans to play on a NBA championship team. Racial discrimination affected Lloyd, just as it did other black players in all sports. Lloyd remembers being refused service in the dining rooms of hotels and being spit on by a fan in Indiana. Lloyd states that being insulted and called names only made him play harder, because he knew the hecklers only shouted insults when he was playing well.

In 1958 Lloyd moved to Detroit, where he played two seasons with the Pistons before retiring from basketball. Lloyd returned to basketball in 1968, joining the Detroit Pistons to become the first African American assistant coach in the NBA. Lloyd took over the head coaching position in 1971, making him only the second African American head coach in NBA history.

After basketball, Lloyd worked with the Detroit public school system as a job placement administrator during the 1970s and 1980s. While working for the school system, he ran programs teaching job skills and training to underprivileged children. During the 1990s, he served as Community Relations Director for the Bing Group, a Detroit manufacturing company owned by a former player and NBA Hall-of-Famer Dave Bing.

Lloyd was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and the CIAA Hall of fame in 1998. In 2002 Lloyd was inducted into the national Basketball Hall of Fame, and also received the NBA Pioneer Award. His many awards and accomplishments recognize Lloyd's courageous contributions to achieving racial equality in both sports and society. He retired from the Bing group in 1999 and moved to Tennessee with his wife Charlita. He remains an avid fan of basketball and Jazz.




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