EARL LLOYD’S FINAL CHAPTER: HIS 50 YEAR JOURNEY TO SAY “I AM SOMEBODY”!
In Appreciation & Setting the Record Straight
NBA Earl Lloyd
Earl and wife Charlie
Red Auerbach and Earl
On Saturday March 7, 2015, President Barack Obama; first lady Michelle Obama; and their teenage daughters, Malia and Sasha, help mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala. It was there in 1965 on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, that state troopers violently attacked a peaceful civil rights march. In the meantime, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department had accused the Ferguson Police Department of racial bias while routinely violating the rights of black citizens, including using excessive force. The Justice Department found a pattern of Ferguson police using unreasonable force against black citizens in 88% where the department used force. In all of the 14 dog bites incidents for which racial information was available, the person bitten was black (it is probably double the original count). There were racist emails found written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials. In 2008 one email read, “President Obama would not be President for very long. What black man holds a steady job for 4 years”?
NBA legend and color analyst Charles Barkley called the blacks in Ferguson hoodlums and thugs! I think he was a little confused, the hoodlums and thugs were wearing uniforms and three piece suits! His partner in this Tomfoolery ESPN’s Michael Wilbon went on national television and said, “I use the N word all the time around my friends and family. My grandfather use it”. Don’t look for an apology any time soon from neither one. This is a sad commentary because they both are spreading this ignorance on to their children.
My thoughts on marking the 50th Anniversary of the march on Selma—the participants’ next march should be headed to Ferguson!
Fifty years after Selma, there was Rodney King, Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and an untold number of black men brutalized and killed by police departments across America. According to the Justice Department there are at least 20 police jurisdictions around the country being investigated for civil rights violations.
My friend, civil rights advocate and sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards says, “I love Charles, Michael and Stephen A. Smith”! My problem, I find it difficult to love someone who does not love himself or his people. But I understand Dr. Edwards’ love, “You can catch more flies with honey then vinegar”!
Speaking of 50 year anniversaries, NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd died in February 2015 Black History Month. He didn’t have a clue that he was braking down a barrier when he became the first black to play in a game in October 1950. He admits “I was no Jackie Robinson”. Thanks to Branch Rickey, Jackie was the first black to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He made headlines across America for his daring feat against all odds. Earl received little or no fanfare.
Even though he went on to become one of the first blacks to play on an NBA Championship team. The first black to become an assistant coach. He also could have easily become the first black to coach a major sports franchise in modern sports history, but his black skin was a liability. It would take 50 years plus before he would be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as a “Contributor”!
As the first black President, Barack Obama and the politicians march in Selma, I am reminded 50 years after Selma, there are still no black owners in the NFL, MLB, NHL and one black owner in the NBA. There are no black owners in major media, black CEOs make up 1% of Fortune 500 Companies and white men still make double the salary of a black man in 2015 (the cry for equal pay)—did I miss something?
“50 years after Selma, Earl Lloyd owe thanks to 2 white men for his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame, the great Red Auerbach and the late Dick Heller of the Washington Times newspaper. There lies the fact, “That every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy”! I am not aware of any member of the NBA Hall of Fame or one of the 50 Greatest Players of all time campaigning for his induction.
Earl grew up in Alexandria, Virginia in the shadows of the Nation’s Capitol and played at Parker-Gray High School. He received a basketball scholarship to West Virginia State in Charleston. The school played in the CIAA (Central Inter-collegian Athletic Association). In the 1947-48 season West Virginia State was the only undefeated college basketball team in America.
Earl was selected in the ninth-round of the 1950 NBA draft by the Washington Capitols. On October 31, 1950, Lloyd became the first African American to play in an NBA game, against the Rochester Royals. The Capitols folded on January 9, 1951 after 7 games. Earl joined the U.S. Army and was station at Fort Sill, Oklahoma before the Syracuse Nationals picked him up on waivers. He spent six seasons with Syracuse and two with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960.
Earl was called “Big Cat and Moon”, he was one of three blacks to enter the NBA at the same time in 1950. It was only because of the order in which the teams’ season openers fell that Lloyd was the first to actually play in a game. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton of the New York Knicks. Earl played in over 560 games in nine seasons, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Earl retired ranked 43rd in career scoring with 4,682 points. In the 1953-54 season, he was also known as “The Enforcer aka Hatchet Man” he led the NBA in both personal fouls and disqualifications. His best year was 1955, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for Syracuse, they beat the Forth Wayne Pistons 4-3 for the NBA title. Lloyd and Jim Tucker were the first blacks to play on an NBA championship team.
In 1965 Detroit Pistons General Manager Don Wattrick wanted to hire Earl as the team’s head coach. The decision would have made him the first black head coach in modern day pro sports. Dave DeBusschere was instead named Pistons’ player–coach. Earl finally got his chance to coach the Pistons after serving as a scout for five seasons in the 1972-73 season. Earl always felt the decision to name DeBusschere coach was because of the color of his skin and in the end his own players ran him out of the league after one year.
In retirement Earl Lloyd became frustrated and irritated that the NBA was only throwing him crumbs off of the table when it came to recognizing his contribution to the league. Those contributions; being the first black to play in a game in the NBA, one of the first two blacks to play on a championship team with teammate Jim Tucker with the Syracuse Nationals and the first black hired as an NBA assistant coach.
It just wasn’t the NBA Hall Fame that ignored his contributions but his own people refused to recognize his contributions as a player in the CIAA (Central Inter-Collegian Athletic Conference). It took them almost 50 years for them to induct him into its hall of fame. The only reason he was finally inducted was because I questioned my former coach and mentor, Clarence “Bighouse Gaines” the God Father of the conference about his absence.
We were having our annual breakfast at his house the Sunday morning after homecoming weekend–he was the chef in charge. This breakfast was for his ‘Boys Club’ that included, Ted Blunt, Earl Monroe, Jack DeFares, Carl Green, Barney Hood, myself and a few other stragglers. It was here he gave his “State of Winston-Salem Basketball” and received updates on any possible basketball recruits, who was in lock-up or who died or who was headed for divorce court.
On this particular morning I kicked off the breakfast by asking, “Why isn’t Earl Lloyd in the CIAA Hall of Fame”? His response almost made me fall out of my chair. He said “The committee says West Virginia State is not a member of the CIAA”! My response, ‘Come on coach, Earl Lloyd made his name in the CIAA, that is nothing but bullshit and it sounds more like envy, jealousy and personal to me’! The following year Earl Lloyd was inducted in the hall of fame.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Bighouse Gaines
I have known Earl Lloyd since I was growing up in NE DC as a teenager. He lived on the other side of the 14th Street bridge, but he was like a “Homeboy” to most us in DC. He spend a lot of time in the Nation’s Capitol, he had a brother living in NW DC that he would often visit. As a teenager, me and my homeboys would travel from our NE housing project to the Bannecker and Park View playgrounds to watch ‘The Big Boys’ play the game. The big boys included, Elgin Baylor, Gary Mays, Daddy Grace, Terry Hachett, Willie Jones and a cast of other playground greats. It was here I established a bond with a guy that would become like a Big Brother in the decades to follow.
With his approval in the late 90s I would under take the task of “Earl Lloyd NBA Hall of Fame or Bust”!
My first recruit in this effort would be the man who told me that Earl Lloyd was the first black to play in the NBA, the Legendary, NBA coach Red Auerbach. I then called Washington Times long time sports columnist the late Dick Heller to join us.
My friends in the sports media like George Solomon (Washington Post), Sonny Hill (NBA/CBS) and Howie Evans (New York Amsterdam News) all said “No Way”! They were under the impression that Chuck Cooper and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton were the first until I told them my source was Red Auerbach.
I would use my Inside Sports connections as a vehicle to bring everyone together. It was during Black History Month in 1998 I would coordinate and host “A Salute & Tribute To Earl Lloyd”. The tribute and salute would be held at Bolling Air Force Base Officer’s Club in SE Washington, DC.
I would invite the usual suspects, Sam Jones (NBA), James Brown (Fox Sports), Roy Jefferson (NFL), George Nock (NFL), Dick Heller (Washington Times), Hall of Fame Martial Arts Warrior Furman Marshall, the late Jim “Bad News” Barnes (NBA), Butch McAdams (Radio One) and the late writer/poet Murray Brooks.
Sam Jones, James Brown, HB and Earl Lloyd celebrate Black American history at Bolling AFB
Butch McAdams would send out press releases to all local media outlets including, the Washington Post and its sports editor George Solomon. Solomon for what ever reason chose to ignore the event. I would then place a call to Washington Post owner Donald Graham. I met Donald while I was working on the streets with youth gangs as a Roving Leader for the DC Recreation Department in the late 60s. He worked those same streets as a DC cop. It was a rebellion move against his mom Katherine Graham, but he finally came to his senses and took his rightful place on the paper.
Donald, would later mail me a hand written note saying, “George said he didn’t know anything about the event.” George Solomon was a bald face liar (see hand written note below).
To his credit Dave McKenna from the City Paper along with Dick Heller of the Washington Times would be the only media outlets to cover the event. But McKenna’s agenda was not in the best interest of Harold Bell and the salute to Earl Lloyd and Black History Month.
One of the reasons I remember Kenna’s involvement was because of a story line that he followed after the salute. For example; He introduced the story saying, “Last week, Harold Bell, the talk-show host, sports writer, do-gooder and all-around rabble-rouser, threw a party to honor Earl Lloyd, the NBA’s first black player. In a crowded ballroom at Bolling Air Force Base, folks who remembered Lloyd from his days across the river at Parker Gray High School in Alexandria in the mid-40s mingled with those who just wanted to be near the alarming obscure athletic pioneer, who broke the color barrier as a member of the Washington Capitols in 1950. Lloyd, for whatever reason, (like it had nothing to do with the color of his skin) never got his just due around his hometown through the years, and sadly he still isn’t likely to after this function. Local and daily newspapers and television stations, along with local sports figures, all stayed away from the tribute. Local sports celebrities would rather eat glass than take Bell’s calls. They all got their press releases, so why didn’t they come for Earl? Ask Bell. Deep down, Bell knew the answer: The mainstream press and jocks didn’t come because of him. Plenty of people , including some of the biggest names in town, want no part of Harold Bell or anything that he is associated with.”
McKenna’s story was titled, “Microphone as Megaphone”. He assumed because they would not return his calls for a story about me, they would not take mine. McKenna needed to check the telephone records at AT&T and see when was the last time I spend ten cents a minute to call Larry Brown, Dave Bing, Jim Brown, James Brown, Rock Newman, Glen Harris, Jim Vance, John Thompson, Doug Williams, Marion Barry, Sugar Ray Leonard and Don King—the Sacred Cows in the black community? If McKenna was trying to be objective, he would have checked some of their backgrounds for perpetrating a fraud, drug abuse, domestic violence, lies, alibis, and not keeping it real while claiming to be black and proud!
I apologize to Dave McKenna for not being a part of the “In Crowd” the jocks, politicians and news media personalities who abuse drugs, steal money from kids and lie until their noses out grow their faces!
I also apologize for having great sporting personalities as my true friends, like Muhammad Ali, Red Auerbach, Bert Sugar, Angelo Dundee, Willie Wood, Dave Robinson, Roy Jefferson, Harold McLinton and a host of others who tolerated me and supported my endeavors despite my less then perfect God like qualities.
My grandmother Amy Tyler Bell taught me “A lie will change a thousand times but the truth never changes” and that is why I always stick with the truth.
McKenna’s first lie, he never talked to or quoted any celebrity who would go on The Record as it related to me. The second lie, he claimed he had never heard my show Inside Sports, still he says, “On Inside Sports, callers weren’t afraid to rail about Marion Barry’s legal and drug problems, and Doug Williams’ benching and maybe establish a link between the two. And the host, well, he was not afraid to rail about anything or speak up against anyone.” He got that right! Dave McKenna, I don’t think is really a bad guy, a little too ambitious is the best way to describe him.
McKenna’s problem, he was trying to use me as one of his stepping stones to a job at the Washington Post (now under new management it looks they have allowed him to freelance). He is an excellent writer, but like Korhisner, Sharpiro, Feistein, Chad, Wise, Solomon, and Wilbon you cannot trust anything that he writes.
George Solomon and his writers were frequent guest on Inside Sports. I am amazed how folks in media are always trying to demean our progress and at the same time stealing our ideas and contributions. But they don’t want to give credit where credit is due (for example; check the copy rights for Inside Sports and see who owns it) and you will see the more things change the more they remain the same.
I will never forget how Leonard Sharpiro tried to come on Inside Sports to sell “The Real John Thompson story” the book was a joke. He never did his home work. In turn when I tried to contact him for a Review on my exclusive one on one interview with Muhammad Ali, he would not entertain the thought (pay back is a bitch). I guess when they cannot find you do drugs and you don’t steal money from the children, their only other vehicle is to tell lies and water down your contributions.
I had one former high ranking NBA administrator say to me as it related to his colleagues/friends in New York writing a story on me for Black History Month, his response, “They say its a local story”! My contributions in sports media and the community is more national then all of their contributions put together. I wonder how many of them have made national contributions when it comes to sports media and community involvement? For example; Inside Sports changed the way we talk and reports sports in America. Every pro sports franchise has copied Kids In Trouble, Inc. “I Care” community formats. How many radio, television and print media personalities have been individually responsible for 2 pro athletes being inducted into the NBA and NFL Hall of Fames?
Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis joined the Kids In Trouble team to help promote the NBA All-Star Tribute for Earl (see letter below).
Back to Dave McKenna, I had to write the City Paper and ask for equal time and space because of the erroneous and negative story written by him–my request was granted.
The paper granted me a whole page in “The Mail” section of the next edition to air my grievances.
The Washington Times would follow my tribute and salute with a Page One story on the trials and tribulations of Earl Lloyd’s journey through the NBA. Leading up to the 2000 NBA All-Star Weekend. Red Auerbach and Earl would appear in a basketball forum at the Smithsonian Museum with NBA Commissioner David Stern. Dick Heller would take over the lead and write about the Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports sponsored activities planned to honor Earl Lloyd in Alexandria and DC during NBA All-Star Weekend. The NBA would usually shutdown any basketball activities not approved by them.
Several weeks before the game was to be played Dick and I met with city leaders in Alexandria and planned “Earl Lloyd Day” at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. Vice-Mayor Bill Cleveland, Sam Jones, Sonny Hill, Bob Lanier, Al Attles, K. C. Jones and hundreds of kids from the city playgrounds would participate. Later that evening a tribute would be held at the historic Bohemian Caverns Jazz Club in NW DC. Jazz legend Najee would headline the tribute. This would be the only NBA All-Star weekend activity that the late great Red Auerbach would participate in.
Sam Jones (NBA), Christie Winters-Scott (Round Ball Report and NCAA College Basketball Analyst), Andrew Dyer (Round Ball Report) and my wife Hattie had lunch with James Brown (Fox Sports) at Union Station. It was here James agreed to co-host the tribute with Sonny Hill. He was a no-show, but the show went on. A host of NBA players and former players that included Red Auerbach stopped by the Caverns that night to pay their respect to Earl Lloyd. Despite hired assassins (NBA Insiders) to sabotage my efforts to honor Earl, the weekend activities were a success.
My former friend and the guy who hired me as a Nike rep John Phillips, scammed Kids In Trouble, Inc. out of a $34,000 donation (Frito Lays was the corporate sponsor) for the weekend activities, except for the scam it was a great weekend for Earl Lloyd.
The Washington Post published a front page story in the Style section of the newspaper following the Sunday game but barely mention that a local hometown boy had coordinated and hosted the weekend events honoring Earl Lloyd (I guess I must have been too local). The sports pages of the newspaper were also no-shows and non-participants.
The NBA All-Star Game comes to Washington in 2001 fifty years after Earl Lloyd’s NBA debut in 1950. The newspaper headline read, “A Player Stands Tall”.
I remember the same Washington Post publishing a Front Page One story on DC’s notorious drug dealer Rayford Edmonds. I wrote the paper’s owner Donald Graham letting him know my displeasure with the story, citing the paper was promoting criminal activity in the black community, he disagreed. The story promoted a DVD on Edmonds’ deadly reign of terror. Edmonds left so many dead bodies behind during that era we still have no count—Page One?
I am reminded of an earlier quote by City Paper columnist Dave McKenna–famous last words,
“Lloyd, for whatever reason, never got his just due around his hometown through the years, and sadly he still isn’t likely to after this function”.
Guess who knows Earl Lloyd now?
*NBA HALL OF FAME *USA Today *Washington Post *New York Times *Los Angeles Times *Fox News *NBC *ABC *CBS *CNN *ESPN *Reuters News Agency *National Public Radio.
I wonder what words taste like when you have to eat them?
The news media gives us very little credit for living, but in death, for example; the Washington Post in their section of the paper devoted to the dead, now pretend that they knew Earl Lloyd while he lived.
Thanks to the late Red Auerbach and Washington Times sports columnist Dick Heller, Earl Lloyd was finally inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003 as a Contributor—“I heard it though Grapevine”.
Earl Lloyd was inducted into the NBA Naismith Hall of Fame in 2003. Standing behind him is NBA Hall of Fame player Dave Bing (DC native).
The late Earl Lloyd said it best in an interview with former GT coach and former sports talk show host John Thompson on ESPN 980, in response to the mention of my name, he said, “Harold Bell may be controversial but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar”. Amen, RIP my man.