West Virginia State University, NBA Basketball Legend Earl Lloyd Passes Away

Contact: Kimberly Osborne
(304) 766-3363
Feb. 26, 2015
West Virginia State University, NBA Basketball Legend Earl Lloyd Passes Away

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member and West Virginia State University (WVSU) basketball legend Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in a NBA game, passed away Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015.

“The State family mourns the loss of a fellow Yellow Jacket and trailblazer who was a true champion both on and off of the basketball court. 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,” WVSU President Brian Hemphill said. “I am so thankful the State family was able to welcome Earl back to campus last year, honor him and celebrate his legacy and unveil the Earl Francis Lloyd Lobby and statue in the new state-of-the-art convocation center. On behalf of the State family, my wife, Marisela, and I extend our deepest condolences to Charlita and their sons and extended family.”

Lloyd was a trailblazer in the world of professional basketball. In 1950, with the Washington Capitols, he was the first African-American to play in an NBA game. Later, with the Syracuse Nationals, he became the first African-American player to win an NBA championship. Following his playing days, with the Detroit Pistons, he was the first African-American to be named an assistant coach and the first to be named a bench coach.

“Today society lost a true treasure with the passing of Earl Lloyd. Not enough, but many people know of his pioneering accomplishments in the game of basketball by breaking the color barrier as a player, a champion and a coach in the NBA. Those who had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lloyd know why society, not just basketball, lost a treasure,” said Bryan Poore, WVSU Men’s Head Basketball Coach. “He was the most humble, caring, positive person I have ever come across. His uplifting spirit made everyone who came in contact with him feel special. I will forever cherish the many great times and insightful conversations I was able to have with this historical legend. He truly loved his alma mater.”

A native of Alexandria, Va., Lloyd began playing basketball at Parker-Gray High School before coming to what was then West Virginia State College in 1947. During his time playing for State, the Yellow Jackets won two Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Conference and Tournament Championships in 1948 and 1949 where they finished in second place. Lloyd was named All-Conference for three years, from 1948 to 1950, and named All-American by the Pittsburgh Courier for 1949 and 1950.

After his college playing days, Lloyd was taken in the NBA draft in the ninth round by the Washington Capitols. On Oct. 31, 1950, Lloyd became the first African-American to play in an NBA game when he took the court against the Rochester Royals. Although the Royals defeated the Capitols 78-70, Lloyd scored 6 points in what would go down as an historic night.

Lloyd spent only seven games with the Capitols before leaving for a two-year stint in the U.S. Army. In 1952 he returned to the NBA to play for the Syracuse Nationals.

Nicknamed “The Big Cat,” Lloyd achieved the best performance of his career in the 1954-55 season when he scored 731 points and helped the Nationals to the Eastern Division Championship. This shored up Lloyd as the first African-American to win an NBA title. His average that year was 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

In 1958 Lloyd was traded to the Detroit Pistons where he remained until his retirement as a player from professional basketball in 1960 at the age of 32. He ended his career with averages of 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.

After retirement, Lloyd remained with the Pistons as a scout, and is credited with discovering basketball talents Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Dave Bing, Ray Scott and Wally Jones.

In 1968 Lloyd broke another color barrier when he was named the first African-American assistant coach in the league, with the Detroit Pistons. Three years later he became the second African-American to be named a head coach of a NBA team. During his short tenure, he coached future Hall of Famers Dave Bing and Bob Lanier.

Following his time in professional basketball Earl joined Chrysler and became the first African-American executive in the Dodge division. Later, he was an administrator in the field of job placement for the Detroit Board of Education for more than 10 years. Before finally retiring completely, Lloyd was an executive in the community relations department of Dave Bing, Inc., a steel and automobile-parts company owned by the former Piston whom Lloyd had coached.

Lloyd was inducted into the national Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He has also been honored with induction into the West Virginia State University Hall of Fame, the state of Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame, the state of West Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame, the Black College Alumni Hall of Fame and the Parker-Gray High School Hall of Fame.

Lloyd lived in Detroit for 40 years and at the time of his death lived in Crossville, Tenn., with his wife, Charlita.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multi-generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service, and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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