A birthday salute to William “Dolly” King, born on this day in 1916.

King was a star in football, basketball, and baseball at Alexander Hamilton High School in New York City, before starring in all three sports at Long Island University (L.I.U.). He was the captain of that school’s basketball team under legendary coach Clair Bee.

King left college in 1941 and is now enshrined in the L.I.U. Sports Hall of Fame.

Dolly King

William "Dolly" King.

He then played professional basketball with the Harlem Yankees, New York Renaissance, Grumman Flyers and Washington Bears.

He signed with the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League (N.B.L.) in 1946, becoming the first African American to join the league during its post-World War II period. The N.B.L. was a predecessor to the National Basketball Association.

King also played professional football with the Long Island Indians and pro baseball with the Homestead Grays.

Later, King was a member of the Dayton Rens team which joined the N.B.L. in 1948.

After his playing career, King became a prominent basketball referee and baseball umpire.

“Cocky, egotistical, self-assured and gifted — Dolly had no time for the black man’s impedimenta,” wrote the Pittsburgh Courier upon King’s death in 1969.

Like dark chocolate, the story of Dolly King is bittersweet and rich with lessons. It deserves its own separate attention, which I will give at some other time.

For now, let it sink in that King in his prime was widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. He also had one of the biggest hearts of all time. You’ll see why as this story unfolds.

In addition, this is one of the all time most amazing photographs I have ever seen.