Time Out: An Open Letter to My Friend NBA Pioneer Earl Lloyd!

Harold BellContributor IIIAugust 20, 2010

Earl, I know it is always great to visit home and see old friends and family in Alexandria, Virginia.  They really turned out to honor one of their own.  Congratulations for a job well done and a game well played.

My visit to Alexandria to be a part of that Tribute & Salute was done with mixed emotions.  I have been confused about how our relationship went from “Sugar to Do-Do.”

I have known you for over 50+ years as a “Big Brother & Friend.”  In those 50+ years, you and I have had discussions on your first marriage, children, your NBA playing career, Dave Bing/Detroit Pistons, the politics of sports, and life after the NBA.  Many of those discussions were of a private and personal nature.  Those personal matters and discussions have never been uttered by me again.  It is called loyalty.

When folks had forgotten your contributions to the NBA I carried “The Earl Lloyd Torch” on the airwaves and in writing in the 90s. 

There were many naysayers and so-called basketball historians like Sonny Hill, Howie Evans, and our friend Bighouse Gaines just to name a few.  They refused to recognize your historic NBA achievements.

You didn’t ask me to carry the message or the torch and neither did Willie Wood (NFL) who was in a similar situation, but I did because I felt that is what friends are for (especially media friends).

Red Auerbach and I had a special relationship that some people are not able to comprehend to this day.  Red and Dotie were two of the most unique human beings that I have ever known.  They treated me and Hattie like family.

It was Red who set the record straight on my talk show “Inside Sports” about Earl Lloyd and his place in NBA history.  The naysayers finally got the message!

I then asked the most powerful man in the NBA if he would assist me in a campaign to get you inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. He said, “Lets do it.”

The campaign kicked off on “Inside Sports” and press releases were mailed to sports media outlets all over the country.  There was also a Black History Tribute to you hosted by my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D. C. 

Remember the Big Time CBS sportscaster giving you a check at the tribute?  You looked at me and said, “I hope this didn’t break him” and we both laughed.

The Washington Times followed with a Page One story with your picture and Red’s as it related to your historical NBA first.

During NBA All-Star Weekend here in DC in 2000, I organized and coordinated “Earl Lloyd Day” in Alexandria and followed up with a reception and tribute to you at the Bohemia Caverns in DC. 

It was the only activity that Red Auerbach participated in during NBA All-Star weekend.

This was the same weekend my friend and the brother who hired me to become the first Nike Sports & Marketing Rep here in DC John Phillips took me for $15,000.

Frito Lays sponsored the Tribute & Salute to you with a $30,000 donation that was supposed to be split between our two non-profit organizations.

Since we could not get the check made out to the two different organizations for $15,000 each, I agreed to have the check made out in the name of John’s organization. 


John Phillips took the money and flew in eight members of his family and friends in from the west coast.  They all stayed at a five-star Marriot Hotel on Wisconsin Avenue NW and he ran up a bill in the restaurant for thousands of dollars. 

The members of his entourage each had a ticket for the NBA All-Star Game.  Hattie and I watched the game at home.  I am still having trouble trying to explain that charade to her.

Guess who was supposed to watching my back—our friend Sam Jones.  In the end, he pretended like he didn’t have clue.  Sam is a nice guy, but he has been dangerous for a long time.  He sits on the fence.  I ignored his short-comings because John Thompson was the messenger (Brutus of the sports world).

John Phillips can thank Al Attles and Sonny Hill that he left DC with peace and blessings.  I felt like I had been raped and until this day (10 years later) no one has asked me what really happen!

I watched the CIAA disrespect you, but I was really disappointed when I discovered that legendary coach the late Bighouse Gaines had also fallen for the lame excuse for your exclusion.  

I broached the question at his breakfast table one Sunday morning in Winston-Salem after homecoming “Why is it that Earl Lloyd is not in the CIAA Hall of Fame?”

I was floored by his response, he said, “The Selection Committee says he is not eligible because West Virginia State is no longer a part of the CIAA!”  The Player Haters are rampant in our community!

I could not believe what I had just heard.  Earl Monroe, Jack DeFares, Teddy Blount, and others were sitting at the table.  I challenged him to do the right thing and evidently he did. 

You were later voted into the hall.

I see the CIAA Hall of Fame is not listed in your career basketball highlights—I understand!

Earl, I was disappointed in a conversation that I had with you immediately after your induction into the NBA Hall of Fame.  You said your son’s campaigning was the reason for your successful induction!

Everyone I have supported in whatever their endeavor was done from the heart and nothing was expected in return. 

A big problem in our community is that we refuse to give credit where credit is due. 

Earl, you have been there and done that and you should understand exactly where I am coming from.

What you did to me and whatever you are saying, I would have expected that from chumps like John Thompson, James Brown, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Wilbon, Sam Jones, Adrian Dantley, and Adrian Branch.  They thrive on keeping “He say, she say” going and talking behind other people’s backs and never looking them in the eye.  They are what I call “Smiling Faces Telling Lies or Back Stabbers.”

Unlike you each of them came through “Inside Sports” before their 15 minutes of fame.  I was there for them.

Loyalty, integrity, and honesty are lost character traits in our community.  We are still trying to blame white folks for our problems, but we are the problem.  Every black face you see is not a brother and every face you see is not the enemy!  A hard lesson learned.

When I approached your wife Charlie to say hello, she was cold as ice.  She does not even know me, so whatever she knows about me must have come from the company that she keeps.

Earl, when you said on the John Thompson show, “Harold Bell maybe controversial but I have yet to hear anyone call him a lie.”  True, I have burned some bridges, but some bridges needed to be burn.

My grandmother told me a long time ago “Son always tell the TRUTH.  A LIE will change a thousand times—the TRUTH never changes” and that is why I am sticking with the truth.

In closing, this has been on my heart and I needed to get it off.  I should not have to defend myself or my actions when it comes to Earl Lloyd.  You are right I have a great wife as you have observed.  She also has a great husband who keeps it real despite the naysayers.  I wish you much success with your new book but you have got to keep it real.  If there is no credit due don’t give any.