It was 69 years ago that the first African-American athelete was drafted in the National Basketball Association and will now get his due.
In 1950, when Boston Celtics picked Chuck Henry Cooper for their team, he became the first African-American athlete to be drafted by the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played his first match against Fort Wayne Pistons and continued with the Boston Celtics for four years before being traded to the Milwaukee Hawks.
Chuck Cooper played 409 games in his career with NBA and scored 2,275 points with an average of 6.66 points per game. He assisted 733 times, averaging at 1.79 per game. After retiring from professional basketball with Fort Wayne Pistons, he graduated with a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota.
It may be hard to imagine a time when black players did not dominate the NBA (in numbers) but the experience of this pioneer was not as great as one could have expected. In a book by Ron Thomas, called They Cleared The Lane, the author quoted Irva, Cooper's wife, as saying, "I think that even though he was the first trailblazer, I don't think he enjoyed that experience." She further added, "I think it was painful, and nobody likes pain."
It is said that as a person he preferred being in the shadows and wasn't the one to hog the limelight. It was 69 years ago that he broke new barriers and introduced himself to the world and though he might not have been appreciated during his time, that fact is changing now. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame would enshrine the legend by inducting him into their numbers and giving him the space in basketball history which he deservedly created for himself.
Chuck Cooper remains an inspiration for thousands of young aspirants and African-American basketball stars for paving the way for them. It was his story that opened up new avenues for black athletes in the game and he deserves the accolade that had been his due.