Saw the news this morning that Earl Lloyd had passed away yesterday, at the age of 86. Many NBA fans may not have heard of them, and that's a shame. He was the man who broke the color barrier in the NBA- the first Black man to play in a league that is now roughly composed 90% of Black men. He did this in 1950, playing for the short lived Washington Capitols, and, after a brief stint in the US Armed Forces in Korea, he returned to the NBA and was starter on the 1954-55 Championship winning Syracuse Nationals. I can't fathom some of the stuff he and others went through. Reading about it makes me sick.
Here's a great article about him on Yahoo- Article
Here are his career stats: Earl Lloyd Career Stats on Basketball-Reference
Here are his cards: Earl Lloyd on the Trading Card Database
He was, in short, my favorite kind of player- the kind who cares more about winning the game than making the highlight reels.
He only has 25 issued cards, and I have only one of them, which happens to be the only card issued during his playing career. There was only one set issued in the 1950s, and it came late in his career, the 1957-58 Topps set. He retired the season before the next set issued, 1961-62 Fleer. He was a coach in 1971-72 and the start of 1972-73 but while Topps was producing excellent sets at that time, the concept of coach cards was still 18 years in the future.
I have been pushing Panini to include more pioneer era players, but so far no success. They only include players from the 80s and 90s with one or two people who came before then- usually Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan.
Chuck Conners has ZERO cards, not a single one. Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton only has a handful of cards, and most are from his Harlem Globetrotter years. Both of them played in the NBA less than a week after Mr. Lloyd did.
The Pioneer era is being forgotten, and that needs to change.
But today, this post is meant to honor the life and contributions of Earl Lloyd, and I will close with my scan of his first card, and the only one in my collection.