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Earl Lloyd 1928--2015

March 09, 2015
March 09, 2015

Table of Contents
March 9, 2015

SI NOW
GOLF PLUS
  • With his hands all over the Ryder Cup and flashes of brilliant play at the Honda, Phil Mickelson proved that even at 44 he's about more than winning majors. And spurred by the young guns, he just might have the game to contend for years

INBOX
SPECIAL REPORT
  • College basketball is facing a crisis. The combination of physical play and a plodding pace has created a game that stinks to watch. The solution? Changes to the rules—and to the committee that makes them

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
  • After the curtain descended on UCLA's majestic run, it rose on an Indiana team whose muscular style became the blueprint for success. The sport hasn't been the same since

PRO BASKETBALL
COLLEGE SPORTS
  • THE CASES OF SEVERAL HIGH-PROFILE ATHLETES ARE REMINDERS THAT SEXUAL ASSAULT IS A TOO-FREQUENT PROBLEM ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES. A NEW FILM SHINES LIGHT ON THE SCOURGE AND ON THOSE WHO SUFFER IN THE DARK

AARON LEVI
  • Boasting about his sexual encounters, Wilt Chamberlain said there would never be any "little Wilties." That may not have been true, as adoptee Aaron Levi found in his quest to locate his biological parents

POINT AFTER
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Earl Lloyd 1928--2015

ALTHOUGH HE WAS the NBA's first African-American player, Earl Lloyd never felt he deserved to be called the Jackie Robinson of pro basketball. He took what he once called "polite umbrage" at the title because it was only by virtue of the schedule that he suited up for the Washington Capitols on Oct. 31, 1950, one day before the Celtics' Chuck Cooper became the league's second African-American player.

This is an article from the March 9, 2015 issue Original Layout

But Lloyd, who died last week at age 86, didn't have it easy. In the pros he faced the stereotype that black players were mostly useful for their brawn, not for their skills. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, his role was to battle under the boards and shoot only rarely, which was one reason for his modest 8.4 points-per-game output. But he was valuable enough to last nine seasons in the league, and he and teammate Jim Tucker became the first African-American players to win an NBA title, with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955. In '71 he became the Pistons' coach, making him the first African-American hired exclusively for that job—the Celtics' Bill Russell had been a player-coach—in league history. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Even after that honor Lloyd tended to downplay his status as a pioneer. Several years ago a young African-American player approached Lloyd and said he was indebted to him for opening doors for later generations of black players. Lloyd, humble to the end, replied that the young man owed him absolutely nothing. There are thousands of players who would no doubt disagree.

PHOTOTHE STEVENSON COLLECTION/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (LLOYD)