On this date in 1917, in a famous game that never was, the New York Incorporators were to play the Providence Collegians — Brown University All-American “Fritz” Pollard’s all-black basketball team — at the Manhattan Casino in Harlem.
However, the game was canceled as the result of strife between the Incorporators — a semi-pro team — and a local fundamentalist faction that advocated strictly amateur ideals and was against pay-for-play basketball.
The struggle between the forces that pushed for professionalism and those that opposed it, would last into the early 1920s.
Pollard was an exceptional athlete who, with the Collegians, was capitalizing on the fame he had won as an All American in football.
He was not alone in this practice. From the 1920s through the 1940s, it was a common for athletes who were famous in another sport to assemble basketball squads, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jesse Owens, and Jackie Robinson.
For his part, Pollard eventually would be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
(Photo courtesy of the Brown University Archives.)