10 Landmark Firsts in the History of Basketball

Given today’s race ratio in professional basketball, it’s interesting to note that the first non-white player to play professionally was not only Asian, but also a Japanese American just after the end of World War II. 5’7 point guard Wataru “Wat” Misaka made his NBA (BAA at the time) debut with the New York Knicks, playing three games for the team during the 1947-1948 season.

The first black players appeared in the NBA in 1950, sharing a draft class with Bob Cousy. Charles Cooper (middle) was the 12th pick for the Celtics, Earl Lloyd (left) was the 100th pick for the Washington Capitols and Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton (right) signed with the New York Knicks after playing with the Harlem Globetrotters from 1948 until 1950.

Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in an NBA game, making his debut on October 31, 1950.