Hall-of-Famer Earl Lloyd, the first black player to play in the NBA, died Thursday at 86 years-old.
The 6-5 Lloyd broke the league’s color barrier in October 1950 when he appeared in the Washington Capitals’ season-opener. He was joined as one of three black players in the 1950-1951 season by Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Charles Cooper.
“The Big Cat” played nine seasons with the Capitals, Syracuse Nationals, and Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960. He sat out the the 1951-1952 season to serve in the U.S. Army, and won a championship with the Nationals in 1955. Lloyd had career averages of 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
He was enshrined to the Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame as a contributor in 2003.
Though Lloyd’s on-court accomplishments were hardly remarkable, his impact on the game needs no explanation. Along with Clifton, Cooper, and so many other brave contemporaries, he helped pave the way for countless players past and present who’ve made the NBA the world’s best professional sports league.
Our thoughts are with Lloyd’s family and friends. Though he’ll certainly be missed, his influence will last forever.
[Video via OfficialHoopHall]