On May 30, 1906, the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association of Middle Atlantic States (I.S.A.A.) took root with its first event, a track meet, at Howard University.

Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association publication

The I.S.A.A. was the first all-black athletic conference.

The event and the conference were masterminded by Edwin Henderson.

The meet itself was a great success, drawing hundreds of athletes from the entire surrounding area.

Edwin B. HendersonEdwin B. Henderson,
the mastermind.

Henderson and his main collaborator, Garnet C. Wilkinson, had tapped into a vast, unsatisfied craving for formal sports training and athletic competition among black students in the racially segregated Washington, D.C. Public Schools.

For example, black athletes were not allowed to compete in local white-run Amateur Athletic Union events. Yet, because their priorities were elsewhere, schools didn’t offer their students much as far as recreational activities and couldn’t financially support their own athletic programs.

“Too little attention has been given to physical education by institutions of learning for colored youths,” Henderson complained.

Wilkinson was a $675-a-year Latin and mathematics teacher who had been Henderson’s instructor at the illustrious M Street High School in D.C.

Garnet C. WilkinsonGarnet C. Wilkinson,
the brilliant promoter.

An 1898 graduate of M Street with degrees from Oberlin College and the Howard University Law School, Wilkinson was a brilliant promoter and organizer – he would eventually become a principal of Washington’s highly regarded Armstrong Technical as well as M Street (by then renamed Dunbar High School).

In addition to his highly academic background, Wilkinson also had a passion for sports, so he was a natural fit with Henderson’s efforts in physical education.

As the result of the formation of the I.S.A.A., various African American basketball teams and players from schools, athletic clubs, churches, colleges, and Colored Y.M.C.A. branches began to emerge in and around Washington, and along the East Coast.

I.S.A.A. basketball games launched the spread of the young sport among African Americans.

“Black basketball” was born.

A thought had become a thing, in a beautiful expression of how the mind can manifest reality.

When you watch the often self-absorbed players, owners, commentators, league big shots, and front row celebs during the N.B.A. Playoffs this week, remember these humble pioneers.

This week, 102 years ago, they made history now.