The NBA is mourning the loss of former basketball champion and Hall of Famer Earl Lloyd. Lloyd, who was the first black player in the NBA died on Feb. 26 at the age of 86. West Virginia University, Lloyd’s alma mater confirmed the news of his passing to the Associated Press but didn’t provide any further details. Lloyd joined the NBA in 1950 playing for the Washington Capitols before play pro players Chuck Cooper and Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton participated in their first games. Lloyd then went on to help the Syracuse Nationals win the 1955 NBA title with Jim Tucker, becoming the first play players to be a part of a championship team. During the 1951-52 season, Lloyd missed out on playing due to serving in the Army.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a released statement:
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.
While in the NBA, Lloyd averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 560 regular-season games in nine seasons with Washington, Syracuse and Detroit. After Lloyd’s tenure playing in the NBA he later became the first black assistant coach in the league when he went on to work with the Detroit Pistons in 1968. In 2003, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. The Pistons also released a statement saying:
Our franchise will always remember the impact and contributions Earl made to the game of basketball and to the Detroit Pistons as a player, head coach and television analyst.
Lloyd coached the Motor City team in 1971-72 and the first nine games in 1972-73 season. Lloyd, is survived by his wife, Charlita and their four sons, Kenneth, Kevin and David; and four grandchildren.