The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Syracuse University Press
Photo, Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, About the Author
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Earl Lloyd is my close friend today, but I first heard of him when I was a young man. I grew up in Washington, D.C., and he was raised right across the bridge, in Alexandria. As a kid, growing up and watching the NBA, I knew he was the first African American to play in the league. It was obvious, and those of us...
Preface: Earl Lloyd and Syracuse
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Youâd have a hard time finding any reminder in Syracuse of what Earl Lloyd accomplished during his time in that Upstate city in New York. No school, street, or playground carries his name, even though Lloyd spent most of his playing career in the National Basketball Association with the old Syracuse Nationals, who later moved to Philadelphia and became the...
A Note to Readers
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In 1991 I became a sports columnist with the Syracuse Post-Standard. The job had its priorities, notably covering Syracuse University football and basketball, but one fringe benefit was a chance to satisfy my curiosity about the old Nationals of the National Basketball Association. Iâd grown up in Upstate New York, and I knew some of the history surrounding the...
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During my life I have acquired many âfamiliesâ of friends and supporters. I would like to give thanks to: My Alexandria, Virginia, family, which included my parents and brothers, gave me love, positive values, and support; My Parker-Gray High School family encouraged my intellectual growth and athletic ability; My West Virginia State College family embraced me, educated me,...
Prologue: Lloyd on Obama, Part One
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...Iâve been watching Obama. I wasnât sure what to think at first. I had to know more. But for this man to survive what heâs survived and still be standing tall, that tells me what I need to know. Heâs one tough guy. First there were the Clintons; she was the odds-on favorite to win the election. And then the folks who opposed Obama . . . they âRev. Wrightedâ him like...
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...I get asked about it everywhere I go. Almost sixty years ago, I walked out onto the basketball court in Rochester for a game I donât even remember all that well. There are plenty of games that in memory seem much more important, but that is the game that put me down in history: the first black American to play in the National Basketball Association. All these...
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For years, Iâve had a lot of people telling me I need to do a book. My friends and family tell me I need to do it, because of what Iâve done and the things Iâve seen. Thatâs been cause for a lot of thought, and I want to start this with something that might shock you, something Iâll come back to as we go through this thing. Segregation served me well. And I think there is something there, a...
3. Bootstraps, Anyone?
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I grew up in the cradle of segregation: Alexandria, Virginia. Itâs part of a beautiful state, if they decide to let you use it. I just donât have a lot of fond memories of Virginia, because of the way I was made to feel, but let me try to separate this out: I have nothing but fond memories of childhood, because of the people who surrounded me. Letâs not lie...
4. A Neighborhood Could Play with One Ball
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People talk about basketball now as black Americaâs game, the black American pastime. Youâre asking me if somehow I played a role in making that happen. The strange thing is, like I said before, baseball was probably my favorite game. Everyone in those days played baseball. But basketball gave me the chance, and I took it. This scout for Branch Rickey, Rex...
5. Cocoon and Butterfly
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If you visit my college, West Virginia State, youâll think itâs just a little place, a quiet place, an out-of-the-way place. But I cannot tell you enough about what that school means to me, or the sense of peace I feel every time I go back. For me, going there, it was like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. It was a fabulous place during dastardly times. When I get asked...
6. The Beginning
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The people who tell me I was firstâthatâs a nice thing to say, but I always defer. I make a point of reminding them of Chuck Cooper. He was drafted in the second round in 1950. Thatâs amazing. Without that happening, I cannot conceive of the Washington Capitols picking me seven rounds later. They took me in the ninth round, and trust me, they could have...
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Whenever I hear criticism of kids leaving high school and going straight to the NBA, itâs almost always from white people, and theyâre mad because they see a lot of black kids without degrees making a lot of money. The first thing that pops out of peopleâs mouths: âDonât you think theyâre overpaid?â They say it like a question, but itâs a statement. But weâve all been taught the...
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My time in Washington ended when the U.S. Army âdeemed me necessary,â and I received my selective service notice. That would take me into my years in Syracuse, although I didnât know it at the time. I got drafted to go into the army, and I had to leave the team, and I didnât know what would happen when I came back. While I was in the army, the Caps folded. The...
9. The Ice Bucket
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I spent most of my NBA years in Syracuse. I didnât have many problems there, but a couple of things happened that stay with me today. Syracuse wasnât the worst place, and it wasnât the best place: it was the way most northern cities were at the time. That meant they didnât put up signs that said âColored only,â but you still found out real fast where you could and...
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Hereâs one subject that is worth a chapter by itself. It involves one of the great passions in my life. In Syracuse, where I could have felt alone, itâs the medium that drew me and Donald âPeeweeâ Caldwell and Eugene âMoonâ Williams together: jazz. Throughout your life, you hear music and you gravitate to the kind that moves you. A lot of my friends...
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Iâve always talked about handprints. Whatever we accomplish, itâs because someone else puts their hands on us positively. Itâs been true for me at every important moment in my life. It was true on the day I became a coach. Iâd been traded from Syracuse to Detroit in 1958. Enter Dick McGuire. He was a guard, and I played with him on the Pistons for a year. Then...
Epilogue: Lloyd on Obama, Part Two
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...My wife is here crying. Weâre both crying. You know what this means? Iâve got grandchildren. For the first time in my life, I can look these kids in the face and tell them they can aspire to be anything they want to be when they grow up. Anything. Thatâs just amazing. Our president-elect will not be a miracle worker, and he knows heâll...
Appendix A. Sean Kirst on Earl Lloyd and the Fifteenth Ward: Appendix B. Earl Lloydâs Career, Playoff, and Coaching
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Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2010