Earl Lloyd remembers when he suited up for the Washington Capitols more than 60 years ago as the first black to play in an NBA game and wondering if he would make a good enough impression to stick around.
Lloyd and the Capitols lost the game. But he played well enough to earn a roster spot and break the color barrier in a league that had only three black players in 1950 and now features the highest percentage of African-American athletes in any of the major professional leagues.
“Before the game, I was terrified,” recalled Lloyd, who scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Capitols in a 78-70 loss to the Rochester Royals on Oct. 31, 1950. “I had a fear of disappointing the people who depended on me. Luckily, letting people down was not a part of my DNA.
“I’m glad I was part of something that helped pave the way for others.”
Now, as part of Black History Month, the 83-year-old Hall of Famer will be honored for his breakthrough at halftime of the Atlanta Hawks-Miami Heat game on Sunday. The former West Virginia State standout along with six other African-Americans will be recognized at all Hawks home games this month.
— Reported by Jonathan Landrum Jr. of the Associated Press