I forgot to mention these important birthdays of famous and in some cases forgotten pioneering African American basketball stars:
March 22, 1921:
George Crowe, a native of Whiteland, Indiana, is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Crowe played for the New York Rens, the Los Angeles Red Devils (alongside Jackie Robinson), and the Dayton Rens. He was a 2-sport star with an All Star career in Major League Baseball playing for numerous teams including the Cincinnati Reds.
March 29, 1925:
Emlen Tunnel, another 2-sport star, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. In basketball he led the University of Toledo to the finals of the 1943 National Invitational Tournament (N.I.T.) and in football became a 9-time Pro Bowl star with the New York Giants. One of the greatest football players of his time, Tunnel was the first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
March 31, 1923:
Don Barksdale, born in Oakland, California, was a San Francisco Bay Area playground basketball legend who in 1948 became the first African American member of the United States Olympic basketball team (in London). Barksdale was also the first African American Consensus All American (at U.C.L.A.) and the first African American in the N.B.A. to make the league’s All Star team. Barksdale never played high school basketball. He was truly one of the most amazing people ever, and he did way more than leave an impression on just sports, as this trailer for an upcoming documentary and this wonderful Barksdale tribute by Dave Zirin prove.
April 4, 1904:
Bill Yancey was one of the first African American 2-sport professional stars. Born in Philadelphia, Yancey played basketball for the Philadelphia Panthers and the New York Rens while also playing baseball in the Negro Leagues.
April 5, 1915:
John McLendon, born in Hiawatha, Kansas, learned basketball from the game’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith. Among many accolades, he was the first N.C.A.A. coach to win 3 consecutive national titles (in the N.A.I.A. with Tennessee State in ’57, ’58, and ’59). McLendon is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m planning to review his new autobiography, Breaking Through.
These snapshots are just the tip of the iceberg, and I invite you find out more about these remarkable men.
Meanwhile, Happy Belated Birthdays y’all.