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Black Legends of
Professional Basketball Foundation

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The Black Legends of Professional Basketball Foundation was founded in 1996 to commemorate the talented professional basketball players from 1900 to 1960. The Foundation is a 501C3 non-profit national organization and is based in Detroit, Michigan.

Goals of the Black Legends of Professional Basketball Foundation are to promote and preserve the history and culture of the sport of basketball, to assist Black pioneer players in financial need, to create a museum to house, showcase and perpetuate the rich and often forgotten history of black professional basketball players and barnstorming, teams from 1900-1960 and to assist the "Black Legends" in receiving public recognition for their outstanding contributions to professional basketball.

Since the Foundation's inception in 1996, it has undertaken numerous projects to further its mission:

Special Projects

I - Gathering of Legends - A weekend of activities and festivities honoring the Black Legends, culminating in a Gala dinner.

II - Legends Locator - Designed to locate and contact players for inclusion in reunion activities, history collection and creation of a national database. This project has currently reconnected more than 100 former NY Rens, Harlem Globetrotters and barnstorming players.

III - Museum Exhibition - Created to educate and celebrate the history and contribution of Black professional basketball players from 1900-1960. A newly expanded exhibition, projected to tour several major U.S. cities, made its national debut February 18, 1999 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

IV - Youth Initiative - In conjunction with the Wayne State University Athletics Division, the Black Legends of Professional Basketball assists in creating youth development programs in athletics at the middle and high school levels, particularly the game of basketball.

 Black Legends Fact Sheet

1891-Basketball was invented by Canadian-born James Naismith, a YMCA instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts.

1896-First professional game was played in Trenton, New Jersey (popularity of the game first spread through the YMCA).

1904-All Black YMCA's, settlement houses, culture clubs and churches created basketball teams which were referred to as "Black Fives".

1904-Bucky Lew, a Black player, played in a white league in New England with the Newberry Haverhill. Frank Wilson integrated the Mohawk Valley League the same year. The Eastern Pro League had Black players from 1911 to 1917.

1905-The first known organized Black Five was the Brooklyn Smart Set Club.

1909- The Loendi Big Five was organized by Cumberland Posey, who also owned the Homestead Grays of the Negro Baseball League. They dominated the Black basketball world for 10 years until the Harlem Globetrotters and the New York Renaissance Big Five arrived on the scene.

1913-Black Fives became widely known for their innovative play and superior skills, which helped popularize and change the nature of the game. Black Fives, such as the Incorporators of New York City, the St. Christopher Five and the Monticello Five organized barnstorming tours across the country and played thousands of exhibition games against popular mainstream opponents.

1914-First white pro basketball team-Original Celtics

1922-The New York Renaissance Big Five were formed by Bob Douglas, considered by some to be the father of Black basketball. The "Rens" became the first salaried professional Black Five.

1925-26-First pro basketball league

1926-27-Renamed National Basketball League-Metropolitan, New York

1927-Savoy Big Five (Harlem Globetrotters) are organized

1927-28-Rule change-Five fouls disqualifies player

1930's-Pro Basketball meant barnstormers (New York Rens and Original Celtics)

1930's-No organized Black leagues but white leagues were glad to play host to the Rens to improve their gate

1930-The New York Globetrotters with Fat Long, Toots Wright, Inman Jackson, Kid Oliver and Runt Pullins (food and lodging were serious problems on the road for the Globetrotters and the Rens)

1930-Major rule change-elimination of the center jump after each basket

1930's- Philadelphia SPHA's only team to rival the New York Rens and the only team to beat them on their own court

1936-Bernie Price joins the Globetrotters (Team played in small towns)

1939-Globetrotters lost to the Rens in second round of World Championship

1939-New York Rens won the World Championship

1940-Harlem Globetrotters win their first and only World Championship

1942-43-Many NBL players were called into the military. Chicago
Studebakers team tapped a pool of Black players, bringing integration into the NBL (Al Price, Casey Jones, Shannie Barnett, Sonny Boswell, Hillary Brown, Duke Cumberland, Roosie Hudson and Bernie Price).

1946-47-In the NBL only a handful of players were shooting with one hand

1946-The Basketball Association of America started its league

1946-George Mikan heralded the arrival of the Big MAn (6'10") in pro basketball

1946-Basketball Association of America decided on 12 minute quarters, 48 minute game.

1946-49-Prior to the merger of the NBL and the BAA, no team signed a black player even though there were no rules against it

1946-47-Brought Black players into the NBL for the first time since 1943 ("Pop"Gates and Dolly King signed with the Rochester Royals, Willie King, former Harlem Globetrotter signed with the Detroit Gems, Charles Perry signed with the Gems, and Bill Farrow signed with the Youngstown Bears).

1946-47-The NBL had better players but they played in small cities and small arenas. The BAA had major cities and major arenas so they decided to merge.

August 1949-The NBL and the BAA merge into the NBA. The NBA was born with ten teams from the BAA and seven teams from the NBL.

1947-The BAA promotes double hitters with Harlem Globetrotters as their second attraction and gate receipts soared.

1949-50-Ned Irish, New York Nicks owner, threatened to leave the NBA if the other owners refused to allow him to sign Sweetwater Clifton, a black player. Thus, the Board of Governors voted six to five in favor of signing black ball players.

1950-In the spring college draft Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd joined Sweetwater Clifton to become the first black players to play in the NBA.

1951-The NBA took away the Big Man's advantage by widening the lane from six feet to twelve feet.

1953-The first NBA television contract was for 13 games for $39,000.


Black Legends of Professional Basketball Foundation
1900 Acklen Ave, Ste. 1707
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 457-3418


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