Barrier-breaking basketball legend Earl Lloyd paved the way for generations of Black athletes to chart paths in the realm of sports. The Virginia native—the first African American player to compete in an NBA game—was honored by his hometown for his resilience and dedication to advancing diversity on the court, WDVM reported.
The city of Alexandria celebrated Lloyd on April 2, the day before what would have been his 94th birthday. The community unveiled a State Historic Marker near his childhood home at 1020 Montgomery Street.
Before his NBA career, Lloyd played basketball at West Virginia State University, where he led his team to two consecutive CIAA conference and tournament championships. In 1950, he became the second Black player selected in the NBA draft. Later that year, he made history as the first African American player to grace the court, a pivotal moment that would forever change the landscape of basketball. Lloyd had monumental triumphs on the sidelines too. Years after retiring, he joined the Detroit Pistons coaching staff, becoming the NBA’s first Black assistant coach and later hitting a milestone as the second Black head coach in the league’s history during the 70s.
Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He passed away in 2015, but his legacy lives on through athletes who use their journeys in sports to evoke transformative change on and off the court.
Alexandria Black History Museum Director Audrey Davis shared historical markers like the one created for Lloyd are integral parts of preserving Black history in the city and beyond. “When I think of African American history, I think of what has been lost, the imagery, the homes,” she shared. “This is why historic markers are so key. When you see a marker, remember the struggle, remember the triumphs and the millions of unnamed African Americans who helped make this country great.”
The celebration for Lloyd comes months after it was announced NBA star Russell Westbrook is developing a documentary that will capture the narratives of trailblazing Black basketball players who competed before the NBA’s racial integration.