Former NBA star Earl Lloyd died Thursday at the age of 86.
ESPN reports that Lloyd’s alma mater, West Virginia State, confirmed the news of his passing.
Earl Lloyd made history in 1950 by becoming the first black player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Throughout his nine-season career as a player, Lloyd played for three NBA teams — the Washington Capitols (1950-51), Syracuse Nationals (1952-58), and the Detroit Pistons (1958-1960).
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 27, 2015
Brian Hemphill, the president of West Virginia State, issued a statement about the impact that Earl Lloyd made on the history of civil rights.
“When Earl stepped out on the court on that fateful date in 1950, this remarkable man rightfully earned his place in the historic civil rights movement and, more important, he opened the door to equality in America.”
The six-foot-five forward played in 560 regular-season games throughout his NBA career, averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds, according to the Detroit Free Press. Lloyd returned to the NBA in 1971 as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued an official statement referencing the life and death of Earl Lloyd.
“The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs. Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understated. He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class, and pride. His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate, and the entire NBA family will strive to always honor his memory. Our deepest condolences to the Lloyd family.”
Quite a few people have shared their condolences and heartfelt thoughts about Earl Lloyd’s passing on Twitter, including current NBA players and teams.
RIP to Mr. Earl Lloyd you opened that ever so important door for all African American athletes. Thank You!!!! ‘s up to your family — Vince Carter (@mrvincecarter15) February 27, 2015
— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) February 27, 2015
Rest in Paradise Earl Lloyd! — Wilson Chandler (@wilsonchandler) February 27, 2015
In February 2012, Earl Lloyd was honored during the halftime break of a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. According to ABC News, Lloyd opened up about his feelings and thoughts before his first NBA game over 60 years ago.
“Before the game, I was terrified. I had a fear of disappointing the people who depended on me. Luckily, letting people down was not a part of my DNA.”
Even though his team lost to the Rochester Royals on that day back in October 1950, Earl Lloyd grabbed 10 rebounds and scored six points. Earl also stated that he was glad to be “part of something that helped pave the way for others.”
[Image Credit: FOX Sports]