Earl Lloyd, First Black Player to Play in NBA, Dies at Age 86

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2015

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Earl Lloyd, the first black player to play in the NBA, died on Thursday at the age of 86, Tom Leyden of WXYZ in Detroit confirmed.

Lloyd played nine years in the league from 1950 to 1960. He appeared in 560 games, averaging 8.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists a night. He won an NBA title with the Syracuse Nationals in 1954-55.

After his playing career, Lloyd became the first black assistant coach in NBA history, joining the Detroit Pistons' staff in 1968.

Bob Finnan of the News Herald passed along commissioner Adam Silver's comments on Lloyd's death:

In 2003, he entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Many eulogized Lloyd on social media and thanked him for his contributions to the league:

Lloyd spoke about his first games in the NBA in a 2013 interview with Gene Demby of NPR:

I had old coaches and teammates all over, I had my handprints everywhere. Every stop I made, there was some love waiting there for you. It didn't make things right, but it made them easier to deal with. ...

My mother called me one day, and she called me 'Earl Francis.' And when Southern people call you by your first name and your middle name, you know it was something serious. She said, 'are people still calling you [demeaning names]?' I said, 'Yes, ma'am.' And she said, 'Well, make them be quiet.' I said, 'Yes, ma'am!' So I did.

A true pioneer, Lloyd was one of the most influential basketball players in the game's history and set the stage for generations to come.   

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