The NBA lost one of its most important figures on Thursday night when Earl Lloyd – the first ever black player to play in the league – passed away at the age of 86.
Lloyd was one of the four African Americans to enter the league in that historical 1950 NBA Draft, but he played an NBA game before others, thanks to favorable scheduling.
The 6'5 small forward debuted for the Washington Capitols on October 31, 1950, but played only six more games for them. Over the next decade, he played for the Syracuse Nationals and the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960.
With Lloyd's death, basketball has lost the final member of the quartet that broke a major racial barrier 64 years ago.
In addition to his role in breaking that barrier, Lloyd was also known for his interesting, larger-than-life personality. When he sat down with the NBA TV staff for a Barrier Breakers special a few years ago, his sense of humor put a smile to everyone's face. Check this:
In 2003, he was enshrined to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His speech is the one to watch too: