Most Deserving For Hall of Fame Enshrinement, From Black Fives Era

On December 27, 2007, in Culture, Descendants, History, Race, Women, by Black Fives Foundation

Our ranking of the most deserving Black Fives Era players and contributors who are not yet enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

This is our ranking of the most deserving Black Fives Era players and contributors who are not yet enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


  1. Clarence “Fats” Jenkins
    The team captain of the New York Rens for 25 years, Jenkins was unstoppable and played pro basketball spanning four decades (’10s, ’20s, ’30s, ’40s) culminating with the Rens title victory in the 1939 World Pro Basketball Championship, his final season with that team.
  2. Cumberland Posey, Jr.
    Among sportswriters and his contemporaries, Posey was unanimously considered the best African American basketball player from 1910 to 1925, during which time he won five Colored Basketball World Championship titles including four straight with his Loendi Big Five team of Pittsburgh. Posey is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as a Contributor.
  3. Ora Mae Washington
    The biggest star of the best black female basketball team of all time, the Tribune Girls of Philadelphia, which won 11 straight Colored Basketball World’s Championships in the 1930s and ’40s.
  4. Hudson Oliver
    Four time winner of the Colored Basketball World Championship with three different teams, the Smart Set Athletic Club, the Washington 12 Streeters, and Howard University, universally considered the best black basketball player prior to the early 1910s.
  5. John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs
    John Isaacs was a star player and emotional leader of the New York Rens and Washington Bears, which won the 1939 and 1943 World Pro Basketball Tournaments, respectively. Isaacs has been a Naismith Hall of Fame Finalist twice, prior to the creation of its special Early African American Pioneers Committee. He was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
  6. Clarence”Puggy” Bell
    In his first of nine seasons with the New York Renaissance, Bell was named as the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural World Championship of Professional Basketball Tournament, won by the “Rens” in 1939. He could shoot with either hand, and was the anchor for the Renaissance and the team’s captain after “Fats” Jenkins retired. Bell also won a World Championship title with the Washington Bears in 1943. He was inducted into the Bob Douglas Hall of Fame in 1984, joining former Rens teammates Charles “Tarzan” Cooper, William “Pop” Gates, John Isaacs, and Clarence “Fats” Jenkins. Bell was also enshrined in the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
  7. Zack Clayton
    Zachariah “Zack” Clayton, one of the all-time greatest basketball players of the Black Fives Era, played guard for the New York “Rens” and Washington Bears from 1936 to 1946, winning two World Championship of Professional Basketball titles. Considered one of the ten most talented early African American athletes ever developed in Philadelphia — alongside Wilt Chamberlain, “Tarzan” Cooper, and Roy Campanella — Clayton was enshrined in the Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.
  8. William “Wee Willie” Smith
    Cleveland, Ohio native “Wee Willie” Smith played center with the New York Renaissance from 1932 through 1943. As a 6′-5″ player he was powerful, agile, and unstoppable. After his arrival, the “Rens” became truly invincible, winning 88 straight games in 86 days during Smith’s rookie season with the team. He was the key pivot man in helping the Rens with the inaugural 1939 World Championship of Professional Basketball, and was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 1977.


  1. Edwin B. Henderson ELECTED! (More)
    Introduced basketball to African Americans on a wide scale organized basis, and set up a structure in which the game could spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including the first black athletic conference, the Inter-scholastic Athletic Association.
  2. Will Anthony Madden
    Four-time winner of the Colored Basketball World’s Championship with two different teams (St. Christopher, Incorporators), introduced the coaching of “scientific basketball,” inter-city rivalries, promotional in-arena giveaways of novelty items, ads in major national publications, promotion through widespread editorial coverage, annual All-American list for top black players, annual black All-Star team, and what was in 1917 the longest road trip in history–between New York City and Chicago.
  3. Cumberland Posey, Jr.
    Architect of black basketball in Pittsburgh, created and led four-time champion Loendi Big Five, introduced professionalism, barnstorming, the black-white rivalry model, naming rights, and sponsorship to black basketball.

A list like this is bound to cause debate, and we hope it does!

Clarence 'Fats' Jenkins


Cumberland Posey, Jr.


Ora Mae Washington


Hudson 'Huddie' Oliver


John Isaacs


Clarence 'Puggy' Bell


Edwin B. Henderson


Will Anthony Madden


11 Responses to “Most Deserving For Hall of Fame Enshrinement, From Black Fives Era”

  1. steve says:

    If Cum Posey were elected, he would become the first member of both the national baseball and basketball halls of fame. I wonder if this would act as a deterrent to his election?

  2. Claude says:

    Wouldn’t that just add to his credibility?

  3. Keith Ellis says:

    How many clubs participated in the Colored Basketball’s World Championship tourney? Where was the tournament held?

    Wasn’t Abe Saperstein enshrined at Cooperstown?

  4. Claude says:

    Hey Keith, actually there wasn’t a tournament, it was just a poll-like pronouncement made by the Negro press to honor what they considered the best team. Good question about Saperstein in Cooperstown. I doubt it. What for? Pimping Negro League baseball teams? Anybody else know?

  5. Keith Ellis says:

    Indianapolis ABC/Crawford/Clown Oscar Charleston was inducted to Cooperstown. Both Saperstein & Philly’s Eddie Gottlieb (a Naismith HoFer) often are seen rubbing shoulders w/ Posey & Manley in exec photos from those days.

    Posey was one of some 17 pioneers of black baseball inducted all at once by the Major Leagues’ HoF. If the NBA or Naismith were to induct 17 barrier-breaking black cagers on a single day, who in addition to the nine Claude listed above should be honored?

    The Clarence “Fat” Jenkins nomination above got me to wondering: For whom did Fats play in the Forties, after having quit the Rens?

  6. Black Fives says:

    “Fats” played for the Crusaders of Chicago.

  7. Claude says:

    Correction: “Fats” Jenkins retired from pro basketball in 1939 after winning the World Pro Cage Tournament. He did continue to play pro baseball as an outfielder in the Negro Leagues. The period during which he played for the Crusaders was in the 1930s.

  8. Claude says:

    … and Jenkins also coached and managed the Chicago Crusaders after that, starting with the 1939-40 season.

  9. Mark Moore says:

    As a player….HUDSON OLIVER should be elected. He was the best black basketball player in the world while he simultaneously attended medical school!! It would be hard to name any modern player who could be considered the best player in basketball while handling medical school studies.

    Could Michael, Lebron, or Kobe do it?? I seriously doubt it.

    Mark Moore,

    • Charles Shabazz says:

      The one modern player that came closest to Hudson Oliver is Pau Gasol. When Pau was playing in his early years for FC Barcelona, he was attending the University of Barcelona to study Medicine, but never finished. Did Hudson graduate? This is a sincere question that I’m asking, because I don’t know.

  10. Mark, that’s a great point. Charles, that’s also a good question. One thing to keep in mind, is that in the old days, prior to big salaries and year-round training, most athletes including most professional athletes with sports contracts still had off-season jobs to help pay the bills. This was right up into the 1960s. So there may have been more of those kinds of players than we are think. For now, we are not aware of any pro athletes who are or were simultaneously in med school, but it’s not out of the question.

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Quote of the Month

“The wonder-player of ten or even five years ago lives only in the memory of contemporary worshipers of his brief scintillating days in the limelight. His picture hung on the walls of his Alma Mater, his name on a cup, a book of clippings, and the record of his team connect him with the string of those gone to live only in reminiscences.”
– Edwin Bancroft Henderson, 1939

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