Role: Pioneering athlete, manager, promoter, sports organizer, and team owner.
“This team is in constant demand from all parts of the country and manager Douglas is besieged with requests to appear in other cities.”
—The Pittsburgh Courier, 1930
Spartan Field Club Braves, New York Renaissance Big Five
In 1923, African American basketball promoter Robert “Bob” Douglas, a passionate sportsman who was one of the game’s greatest visionaries, sought a dedicated home court for the Spartan Braves, his Harlem-based all-black basketball team.
The Spartans were contenders for the Colored World’s Championship title. Douglas asked William Roach, owner and manager of the newly completed Renaissance Theater and Ballroom, for permission to use his building for basketball games in return for renaming his team the New York Renaissance Big Five, eventually nicknamed the New York Rens.
Having secured a dedicated home court, Douglas offered his players guaranteed season-long contracts, making them the first black-owned, fully professional basketball team.
He then signed away the best players of his team’s rivals, the Commonwealth Big Five, and promptly won the 1924-25 Colored Basketball World’s Championship title.
Douglas was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972, the first African American to be individually inducted.