Earl Lloyd’s son seeks to stamp his father’s legacy

Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Earl Lloyd stepped onto the court on Halloween night in the year 1950. He suited up in his Washington Capitals uniform, making history in the process. He was different from everyone else on his team, from his opponents, and from everyone else but two others in the entire NBA.

Lloyd was the first African-American to play in an NBA game, just ahead of Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Chuck Cooper, breaking the color barrier and changing the Association forever. After eight years, including a stint in the Army and six seasons with the Syracuse Nationals, Lloyd became a Detroit Piston in 1958. As you can imagine, he encountered countless acts of discrimination, but persevered with acts of courage and dignity.

In 1965, Detroit News sports writer Jerry Green reported that then-Pistons GM Don Wattrick wanted to make Lloyd the Pistons head coach, then making him the first African-American head coach in the history of the NBA. Instead Dave DeBusschere was hired and Lloyd became the first African-American assistant coach in the league. Finally in 1970, Lloyd became Detroit’s head coach, the second African-American to accomplish the feat in professional basketball. He was also a scout for a handful of years.

Lloyd continued to make an impact on Detroit after his work with the Pistons, aiding the community by running programs to teach children job skills and becoming a community relations director with the Bing Group. And his words continue to be an inspiration to those who have seen them.

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

The man they called “Moonfixer” passed away in February of this year at age 86, but his son is looking to literally stamp his legacy to be remembered. Kevin Lloyd is drafting a petition to have his father’s image printed on a United States commemorative postage stamp.

"“I’m on a committee with our family,” Lloyd said in an interview with Donald Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune. “I think it would be an honor to have my father Earl Lloyd put on a stamp. I think that it’s something that is well deserved for my father.”"

If Lloyd eventually ends up being honored on a stamp, he would be the second NBA player to be commemorated, along with Wilt Chamberlain. The NBA Players Association have shown its support, with the incoming class of rookies already adding their John Hancock’s to the petition.

The path to a petition becoming approved is a long one, including going through approval from the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee and the Postmaster General. The odds may be slim for Lloyd to be honored, but there’s no doubt that he deserves the distinction for his life on and off the court.

John Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Hall of Fame commended Lloyd’s leadership and toughness through being a pioneer.

"“His remarkable basketball career aside,” Doleva said. “He was also one of the greatest and most decent human beings to represent basketball and the game was fortunate to have him at its forefront.”"

Now when African-Americans in the NBA today suit up before heading out on to the hardwood, the road has already been paved for them. One person they can thank and remember while doing so is Earl Lloyd.

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