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Archibald, Nathaniel  

Robert Janis

professional basketball player, was born Nathaniel Archibald in New York City but he was known as Tiny Some say he was nicknamed after his father Big Tiny while others believe that he was given that label because he was small in comparison with the other players on the basketball court He was the oldest of seven children and was raised in the South Bronx s Patterson Housing Projects At age fourteen his father left the family and Archibald effectively became head of the household His mother worked at a neighborhood supermarket called Alexander s to make enough money to care for the family Basketball became Archibald s sanctuary from drugs and violence which were rampant in his neighborhood and among his friends Still it wasn t easy for him to get himself on a team as he was small painfully shy and lacked confidence on the basketball court He ...


Barksdale, Don  

Dolph Grundman

basketball player and track athlete, was born Donald Angelo Barksdale in Oakland, California, the son of Agee Barksdale, a Pullman porter, and Desiree Barksdale, a homemaker. Barksdale grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and played sports as a youngster at San Pablo Park, just four blocks from his home. Dutch Redquist, the director of the playground, helped him develop his skills. Jackie Robinson, the great UCLA athlete who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, visited the park and became another of Barksdale's mentors. Barksdale also accompanied his father to meetings of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters where he listened to black activists such as A. Philip Randolph.

While Barksdale was a gifted athlete he never played high school basketball The Berkeley High School basketball coach refused to have more than one black player on the team so Barksdale who entered high school in ...


Baylor, Elgin Gay  

Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player and executive, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of a railroad brakeman. Little else is known about his parents. Baylor grew up in a poor section of the District of Columbia and played basketball at the all-Black Spingarn High School, where he scored sixty-eight points in a single game to establish a new record for a D.C. high schooler. Although he was the first African American to make the all-metropolitan team, his poor grades discouraged college recruiters. Thus Baylor started his college career with a football scholarship at the tiny College of Idaho, which had only 450 students. Sam Vokes coached both football and basketball and decided that it made good sense to keep the talented Baylor off the football field Baylor proceeded to average thirty one points a game and made the NAIA All American team which recognizes the achievements of small school athletes After ...


Beaty, Zelmo  

Kyle Partyka

professional basketball player, was born John L. Beaty Jr. in Hillister, Texas, the son of John L. (Zelmo) Beaty Sr. and Etheatta Beaty, a homemaker. Along with his sister, Bernice Beaty, he was raised in the small town of Hillister by his mother; his father died when Beaty was a child. Zelmo attended the segregated Scott High School in Woodville, Texas, where he was recruited in basketball by Prairie View A&M, an historically black college northwest of Houston. After a standout college career, he graduated and was drafted third in the National Basketball Association by the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks in 1962. In 1963 Beaty married his wife, Annie, whom he had met at Prairie View.

Beaty played at the center position and stood at 6 feet 9 inches, weighing 235 pounds. He played seven seasons with the Hawks, winning Rookie of the Year in 1963 ...


Bias, Leonard Kevin “Len”  

Adam W. Green

basketball player, was the oldest of four children born to James S. Bias, an equipment repairman, and Lonise P. Bias, an assistant bank manager. Bias's death by cocaine overdose two days following his selection in the National Basketball Association draft caused repercussions for both his university's athletic program and drug laws in America.

Born and raised in Landover Maryland Bias took to sports as a pre teen spending much of his time at the Columbia Park Recreational Center a couple of blocks from his house Though he was initially drawn to football Bias began concentrating on basketball after deeming himself too tall and lanky for the gridiron When he was cut from his junior high school basketball team in seventh grade he began visiting the rec center s gym daily to improve his skills He made the team the following year played for the community center s club ...


Bol, Manute  

Boyd Childress

professional basketball player and humanitarian activist, was born in Gogrial, Sudan. Born to Madut and Okwok Bol, his father was a herder in the Sudan. Legend has it that Bol, who shared this task, once killed a lion with a spear while tending the family's cattle. Members of the Dinka tribe, noteworthy for their height, Bol's parents were tall—his mother was 6 feet 10 inches. Bol grew to an extraordinary 7 feet 7 inches. When he was a teenager with such height, a cousin suggested he take up basketball. Playing for a team in the larger city of Wau and later in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, Bol was discovered by Don Feeley, a coach from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He came to the United States in 1983 and although he weighed only 180 pounds and lacked athleticism Bol was drafted by the then ...


Chamberlain, Wilt  

John Gennari

Wilt Chamberlain revolutionized the game of Basketball, inspiring rule changes and creating a premium role for the big-scoring and rebounding center. Over fourteen seasons in the NBA, “Wilt the Stilt”—or, as he preferred, “The Big Dipper”—averaged 30.1 points a game, second only to Michael Jordan in career scoring average. In the 1961–1962 season, playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points a game. He scored 100 points in a single game against the New York Knickerbockers, played on March 2, 1963, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

He was born Wilton Norman Chamberlain in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Chamberlain, a custodian, and Olivia Chamberlain a domestic worker and laundress Heralded as the best prep player in the nation Chamberlain led his Overbrook High School team to a 58 3 record and two city championships The Philadelphia Warriors claimed future draft rights to Chamberlain upon his ...


Chamberlain, Wilt  

Steven J. Niven

basketball player, was born Wilton Norman Chamberlain in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the sixth of nine surviving children born to William Chamberlain, a janitor and handyman, and Olivia Ruth Chamberlain, a domestic maid and cook. Although Chamberlain claimed in his 1973 autobiography that he was born measuring twenty-nine inches in length, much above average, he later stated that at birth “there was absolutely nothing special about me. I was a little over twenty-two inches long” (Chamberlain, 1991, 25). At any rate, young Wilton was always the tallest in his grade school classes and became known as the “Big Dipper” or “Dip,” both of which he preferred to “Wilt the Stilt,” a nickname later coined by a journalist. He was also among the most athletic students, participating as a nine-year-old in 1946 in the famed Penn Relays near his West Philadelphia home.When he entered Overbrook High School in 1951 ...


Chamberlain, Wilt  

Rachelle Gold

basketball player. A legendary basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain was a gifted offensive shooter who scored and rebounded prolifically. In the 1961–1962 season, averaging 50 points a game, he became the first and only National Basketball Association (NBA) athlete ever to score 4,000 points in a season. Through his fourteen-year playing career Chamberlain—a center who was seven feet one inch tall—set NBA single-game records for the most points (100), the most consecutive field goals, and the most rebounds. Not only was he the NBA scoring leader for seven years in a row, but he also was the league's top rebounder in 11 out of his 14 seasons. Ultimately Chamberlain scored 31,419 points in his career.

Born in Philadelphia, Wilton Norman Chamberlain was one of nine children born to and raised by William a welder and a janitor and Olivia a domestic worker Although at first Chamberlain was interested in ...


Chaney, John  

Thomas A. Mogan

basketball coach and educator, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, to Earley Chaney (whose maiden name is not now known) and a father he never knew. The oldest of three children, Chaney grew up in a poor section of Jacksonville called Black Bottom. Chaney's mother was a domestic worker for a white lawyer's family in the Riverside section of the city. Although Chaney never met his biological father, his stepfather, Sylvester Chaney, was a major influence in his life. Chaney's experience of childhood poverty would play a major role in his lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the student-athletes under his charge.

Chaney moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of fourteen when his stepfather got a job at the Veteran's Hospital. Chaney emerged as a basketball star at Ben Franklin High School in Philadelphia. Despite being named the MVP of the Philadelphia Public League in 1951 he ...


Clifton, Nathaniel Sweetwater  

Adam W. Green

basketball player, was the only child born to his parents in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. When he was six years old, his mother moved him to Chicago, where he was raised by her and his aunt. Clifton, whose nickname originated with his predilection for sugary-flavored drinks like soda pop, also had a name change in high school. Born Clifton Nathaniel, he was warned by reporters who covered his basketball games that the last name of “Nathaniel” was too long for sports summaries. Subsequently, Clifton reversed his names.

By his sophomore year Clifton was already 6 feet, 5 inches (he would grow another 2 inches in total), and he became a dominant force on the DuSable High School basketball team. During DuSable's run at the Chicago city championship in his senior year (1942 Clifton dazzled in both the semifinal against Austin scoring ...


Cooper, Tarzan  

Susan J. Rayl

professional basketball player, was born Charles Theodore Cooper in Newark, Delaware, the son of Theodore Cooper and Evelyn (whose maiden name is unknown). He was a standout for the Central High School basketball team in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1925. Cooper immediately began a twenty-year career in professional basketball, playing initially with the Philadelphia Panther Pros in 1925, then going on to star for the all-black Philadelphia Giants from 1926 to 1929. Robert Douglas, owner of the famed all-black professional team the New York Renaissance, spotted Cooper in a game at Philadelphia and signed him the next day to play for his team. Cooper then began an eleven-year stint with the Rens, named for their home court, the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem. Over these eleven years the Rens earned a record of 1,303 wins and 203 losses.

At six feet four inches Cooper was ...


Dawkins, Darryl  

Boyd Childress

professional basketball player, was born in Orlando, Florida, and was raised by his mother, Harriet, and grandmother, Amanda Jones. He attended Maynard Evans High School and led the basketball team to the 1975 state championship. Dawkins was tall and talented, but he never played college basketball. After high school, Dawkins applied for the 1975 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft as a hardship case—an exception allowing players who had not yet completed college to play in the NBA if they could prove economic hardship. A year earlier the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association had drafted a highschooler named Moses Malone, and Dawkins looked to follow Malone's pro path. The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Dawkins with the fifth choice.

Dawkins was a man child almost seven feet tall but a raw player who was drafted on potential alone In time he would match his potential but his first ...


DeJernett, David “Big Dave”  

Adam W. Green

basketball player, was the third of five children born to John DeJernett, a day laborer, and Mary Woods, a housewife. Though born in Garfield, Kentucky, as a baby DeJernett was moved with his family to Washington, Indiana, when his father found employment repairing railroad tracks on the B&O line that had been damaged during the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, one of the worst natural disasters in Ohio's history.

DeJernett grew up in a working-class neighborhood, and attended the segregated Dunbar Elementary School before entering the junior high school section of the integrated Washington High School. In 1925 the high school hired Burl Friddle, a celebrated Indiana high school and college basketball player, to coach the team and teach physical education. Friddle immediately saw that DeJernett's height and jumping ability would suit him well on the basketball team, and recruited the novice for the team.

Though DeJernett was ...


Dorsey, James Arthur  

Samuel W. Black

athlete and physical director, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Allen Dorsey, a shipping clerk, and Mary C. Sparksman. Allegheny City was later incorporated as part of Pittsburgh's north side. The five Dorsey brothers would all earn reputations as accomplished athletes in Pittsburgh's sporting community in the early twentieth century.

As a child Dorsey showed an interest in sports while watching students play basketball in the basement gym of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After the death of his father in 1905, he went to work to help support his family. The following year, while working as a janitor on a north side estate, he secretly opened the estate gymnasium for pickup basketball games and soon organized a team with practices held on Sundays. Two of the players who attended were the future Homestead Grays baseball legends Cum Posey and Sellers ...


Douglas, Robert L.  

Susan J. Rayl

professional basketball player and team owner, was born in St. Kitts, British West Indies. No information is available concerning Douglas's parents or his early education. He observed his first basketball game shortly after arriving in New York City in 1902. In around 1919 Douglas and some friends organized the Spartan Field Club, which offered black New York City youths the opportunity to participate in amateur cricket, soccer, track, and basketball. Coach Douglas's basketball team, the Spartan Braves, were successful, and at times he joined them on the court.

In 1922 Douglas ran into problems with the Metropolitan Basketball Association an amateur organization over the status of a couple of his players Because of this controversy Douglas organized the New York Renaissance a professional basketball team He approached the owner of the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem agreeing to use the name Renaissance in return for practice and playing ...


Erving, Julius  

Jason Philip Miller

basketball player, was born Julius Winfield Erving III in Hempstead, New York, and raised by a single mother, his father having abandoned the family when Julius was only three years old. Since his family life was difficult to cope with, Julius spent a great deal of time on the streets and playing basketball at the local community courts. Julius received his familiar “Dr. J” moniker during a childhood pickup game; it was a nickname that would stick with him throughout his long and astonishing basketball career. By the time Julius was ten years old, he was playing with a local Salvation Army basketball team. He had already learned how to dunk—albeit on Prospect Elementary's lower baskets—and in just a few short years he was able to dunk the ball on regulation posts.

When Erving was thirteen, his mother remarried, and in 1963 the family relocated to nearby Roosevelt ...


Ewing, Patrick Aloysius  

Andrew Patrick Nelson

professional basketball player and coach, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the fifth of the seven children of Carl Ewing, a mechanic, and Dorothy Ewing, a homemaker. Carl and Dorothy relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1972, and worked to bring their children to America one by one. Patrick arrived in Cambridge at the age of twelve, and soon learned to play basketball with friends on a neighborhood court.

Nearing seven feet tall by his teens, Ewing led Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School to three consecutive state championships, establishing himself as the most sought‐after prospect in the nation. In his senior year, Ewing announced he would attend Georgetown University—to the disappointment of many in the Boston area who hoped he would choose a local college. Ewing's on‐court success often brought out the worst in opposing fans, who taunted the young player using racist epithets. After the Boston Globe ...


Frazier, Walter, II  

Sarbjit Singh

Hall of Fame basketball player nicknamed “Clyde” during his professional playing days, was born Walter Frazier Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest of nine children of Walter Frazier Sr. At his all-black high school in the racially segregated South of the 1950s, he mastered basketball on a dirt playground, the only facility available to him. Frazier exhibited an athletic brilliance early in his life, becoming a three-sport star at David Howard High School. He quarterbacked the football team, played catcher on the baseball team, and was a versatile player on the basketball team.

After his success at David Howard Frazier decided to attend Southern Illinois University SIU at Carbondale Illinois Because of racial segregation it was not possible for Frazier to attend major colleges in Georgia such as Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia or any other major universities in the South Frazier was actually offered more ...


Garrett, Bill  

Rachel Cody

basketball player who broke the color line in the Big Ten basketball, was born in Shelbyville, Indiana, the eldest son of Laura and Leon Garrett, a clerk and a laborer, respectively. At the time Indiana was segregated by a patchwork of law and unspoken custom, and Shelbyville had segregated grade schools but an integrated high school.

Garrett grew up playing basketball on the dirt court behind Booker T. Washington, Shelbyville's black elementary school. Fast, agile, and dominant, Garrett was a natural center though only six feet, two inches tall. He honed his skills by competing in pick-up games against grown men, some of them semiprofessionals barnstorming around Indiana.

On 22 March 1947 Garrett led Shelbyville High School s basketball team to the Indiana state championship before a live audience of fifteen thousand and a radio audience of over two million Garrett s Shelbyville basketball team was the first ...