Earl Lloyd, the first black NBA player, is dead at 86

Earl Lloyd, first black NBA player, died on Thursday
(Image credit: TNT/YouTube)

In 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in the NBA, making his debut with the Washington Capitols before going on to play with the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. He won a championship with the Nationals, then became one of the NBA's first black coaches. Lloyd died on Thursday at age 86.

Lloyd said that his first pro appearance on the court — in Rochester, New York, on Oct. 31, 1950 — was pretty low-key, Kenneth Shouler writes at ESPN. "I stepped onto the court and the world kept spinning," Lloyd said. "No one said a word — not the fans, players, anybody. Nothing was ever said about me being the first black. They acted as if I was a player, period." That same season, Charles Cooper and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton also made their NBA debuts.

Even if he was nonchalant about integrating the NBA, other players hold him up as a pioneer. Below, you can watch Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkely talk about what Lloyd meant to them, during a break in Thursday night's Oklahoma City-Phoenix game. —Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.