Black History month should be used remind us all of the many contributions Black Americans have made in the States and abroad. In the sports arena once given a chance, many Black Americans have proven, “if you can do it, I can do it.” We all know that Jackie Robinson was the 1st black player in Major League Baseball; however that’s where most of us stop. There were many firsts in the sports world so let’s name a few.
Before there could be a Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan or Lebron James, it first had to be Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Nat Clifton. In 1950 these three men were the first black players to be drafted, signed and play in the NBA . All of them struggled at times because of the racism. They were spit on, and couldn’t always sleep and eat at the same hotels as their teammates. They all had successful NBA careers but Lloyd went even further by also becoming the first black Detroit Piston head coach in 1971. Bill Russell had already become the first black head coach when he was a player-coach of the 1966 Boston Celtics. Bill Russell was also consistently thought of as one of the great basketball minds in the NBA. This was shown by him having not only won 9 NBA Finals as a player but also two more as a player-coach. A feat that has never and will never be duplicated.
Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the 1st black players in the AFL (NFL). They were followed by many more black players who began to dominate the league. What quickly ensued was a NFL team imposed “Blackout.” George Preston Marshall (Boston Braves/Washington Redskins) led the blackout which was the refusal to have black players on the team. All other teams followed and blacks weren’t allowed back until after World War II in 1946.
Althea Gibson was the first black person to compete in the world tennis tour. “She was the one to break "color barrier" and so sometimes she is referred as "the Jackie Robinson" of tennis.” Gibson was also the first black person to win a title at Wimbledon and the U.S Open. Althea Gibson was honored with the highest honor for a female athlete, Associated Press Female Athlete of the year. That same year she took retirement from tennis in 1958. She was a true trailblazer and athlete and took her talents to Golf and became the first black women to play on the LPGA Tour.
Robert Johnson founder of Black Entertainment Television became the first black owner of a NBA franchise. This was very significant and shows how important being a FIRST really is. He created a legacy; he eventually sold a stake of the team to NBA great Michael Jordan who eventually bought the majority stake from Johnson last year. This created the momentum needed and now Sean Carter (Jay-Z) and Cornell Hayes (Nelly) are also minority owners of the New Jersey Nets and Charlotte Bobcats.
Consequently being the first creates a road map for all of us to follow to ensure success. The few athletes fore mentioned have given us all reasons to dream and examples of accomplishment. These trailblazers have done this to show all of us, “Yes We Can.” So during this month of Black History think of the past and allow it to fuel your future.