Earl Lloyd

Earl Lloyd (April 3, 1928 – February 26, 2015) was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and attended West Virginia State on a basketball scholarship. In college, he led the Yellow Jackets to back-to-back CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships in 1948 and ‘49. He was named All-Conference three times (1948-50) and was an All-America selection twice, as named by the Pittsburgh Courier (1949-50). As a senior, he averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game, while leading West Virginia State to a second-place finish in the CIAA Conference and Tournament Championship. In 1947-48, West Virginia State was the only undefeated team in the United States. He was drafted by the then-Washington Capitols in the ninth round (100th pick overall) of the 1950 NBA Draft. Nicknamed "The Big Cat," Lloyd was one of three African-American players to enter the NBA at the same time. It was only because of the order in which the teams’ season openers were held that enabled Lloyd to become the first African-American to actually play in an NBA game. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of when Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of the New York Knicks were slated to play. In his historical NBA debut, Lloyd tallied six points for the Capitols in a losing effort against the Rochester Royals. He went on to play nine years in the NBA, including six seasons with the Syracuse Nationals, and averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebound per outing. He also served as coach of the Detroit Pistons during the 1971-21 season. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.