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Earl Lloyd, first African-American player in NBA, dies at age 86

Earl Lloyd, who became the first African-American to play in an NBA game, has died at the age of 86.  
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Earl Lloyd, who was the first African-American to play in an NBA game, has died at the age of 86.

His alma mater, West Virginia State, confirmed the death to the Associated Press, but did not provide any details.

"The State family mourns the loss of a fellow Yellow Jacket and trailblazer who was a true champion both on and off of the basketball court," West Virginia State president Brian Hemphill said in a statement. "When Earl stepped out on the court on that fateful date in 1950, this remarkable man rightfully earned his place in the historic civil rights movement and, more important, he opened the door to equality in America."

Lloyd made his NBA debut on Oct. 31, 1950, as a member of the Washington Capitols. He was one of four African-American players to play in the league that season. However his team disbanded after seven games.

"The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs. Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understand. He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class, and pride," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate, and the entire NBA family will strive to always honor his memory. Our deepest condolences to the Lloyd family."

Lloyd played nine seasons in the NBA, missing the 1951-52 season to serve in the U.S. Army. He spent six seasons with the Syracuse Nationals and two with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960. For his career, he averaged 8.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists, scoring 4,682 points in 560 games.

The forward's best season came in 1954-55, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, both of which were career highs.

Lloyd also became the NBA's first black assistant coach in 1968 with the Detroit Pistons and later become one of the league's first black head coaches, also with the Pistons.

In 2003, Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. You can watch his enshrinement speech below:

- Molly Geary