Johnson on Outside The Lines

ESPN’s feature segment about the Black Fives Era, which aired yesterday on the show “Outside The Lines,” was really great.

In case you missed it, here is the full segment posted below. After you watch, please share your opinion about it with ESPN, because your feedback really matters. Thank you.

It was great from several angles: for viewers, for the network, for descendants of the Black Fives Era, for historians of this period, for NBA players, for league officials, and for all of here at BlackFives.com.

For viewers, it was perhaps the most visibility that this pre-NBA history of African American basketball teams has ever received.

For the network, this covered new ground.  Kudos to them for making this leap of faith and determination.  It means ESPN just raised the awareness level of this genre while also increasing the audience for it.  Moreover, my inbox was flooded with emails from people wanting to see more, and hear more of what I had to say.  I see that as an opportunity.

And, T.J. Quinn, the show’s host, was exceptional with the material.

For descendants, this feature raised their visibility as a group.  The live guests were perfect, and when ESPN invited Mark Moore to appear — he’s the descendant of Black Fives Era pioneer Ferdinand Accooe — it was his first time on national television.

Mark has contributed to this blog, and he did a wonderful job on TV!  A few nights ago he was asking himself, “What am I gonna do on Thursday night?”  Then I called.  Now he’s on national TV!   He’s a natural, and it’s all because he just decided he’s got a passion for researching and documenting his own family history.  So that’s an example of people creating something from nothing.

I was in the studio in Bristol, Ct. to see the broadcast from a “live” behind the scenes perspective. I also got a partial tour and met some of the many professionals responsible for creating the piece. A lot of work went into it. The entire production team was grateful that they had a chance to learn something they felt was really cool.

Outside The Lines logo

Meanwhile, historians are always happy to see fellow historians on the air.  This gave that opportunity to fans of Ron Thomas, author of the book “They Cleared the Lane.”

It’s wonderful that “Satch” Sanders (who has eight NBA Championship rings) mentioned former New York Rens players John Isaacs, William “Pop” Gates, and Sonny Wood as being among the mentors and coaches who helped him develop into a great player and a finer person.

John Isaacs, Pop Gates, Sonny Wood on Outside The Lines

New York Rens players John Isaacs, ‘Pop’ Gates, and ‘Sonny’ Wood, who are mentioned in in the segment by former Celtics star ‘Satch’ Sanders.

Sanders’ story about that one time he sat down with a group of NBA rookies was outstanding (and funny), especially if it catches the attention of a few more NBA players.  For players in the league, what’s important is not the history so much as what they might be able to do with the lessons from those pioneers that might apply today.

And I’m hoping that some NBA execs were watching.  Many people from all over, including me, would love for us to be involved in some sort of collaboration with them, like seeing the New York Knicks wearing New York Rens uniforms one of these days.

For us, it was great to be able to supply all of the Black Fives Era images and artifacts that ESPN used, because it validates how beautiful these materials can look on a screen, thanks also to the network’s signature on-camera styling that they’ve used so successfully with vintage and classic topics.

And I believe that many people learned more about our company, Black Fives, Inc., and about our efforts, such as for example our new Black Fives Community Fund.

So I believe that overall it was a big success. And for us anyway this feature was a very important evolutionary step.

As a reminder, please do share your opinion about it with ESPN.  It’s important.

Thank you.