By Michael C. King, son of William “Dolly” King
This is a photograph of my father, William “Dolly” King, taken in 1939 while he was a student at Long Island University (LIU). When you look into his eyes you can see the determination to the game that made him a fierce competitor. This picture was before he filled into his 6’3” 218 pound frame.
The look never changed but the size did. I remember growing up seeing that look. He would use it to reprimand me and I would fall back in line with what I was supposed to be doing immediately. The sweatshirt represented his college fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.
My dad left LIU in 1941, to join the New York Rens, an African American barnstorming team that had won the 1939 World Championship of Professional Basketball.
Below is another photograph, which shows my dad as a member of the Rochester Royals, a professional franchise in the National Basketball League, out of Rochester, New York. The eyes are still the focal point of the picture to me. He had also filled out as you can see.
My dad signed with the Royals in 1946. He was one of four black players the league signed that year. This team later moved to Cincinnati, then to Kansas City, where they changed their name to the Kings, and eventually moved to Sacramento where they became the Sacramento Kings of the NBA.
Both of these photographs remind me of a story a gentleman told me in 2013 about a professional basketball player my dad knew who had just had a career ending injury and was feeling low about his future.
My dad long, retired from both his playing and refereeing days, told this player that he should never think of basketball as defining his life but to use basketball to get the next gift that life had to offer.
As a son I am extremely proud of these words.
This last item is a newspaper column that appeared in the New York Daily News on January 29, 1941, written by that newspaper’s iconic long time sportswriter, Jimmy Powers.
Here again I am particularly proud that my dad held education high and made sure he finished school to obtain a better life for his family. I am drawn to the parts of this piece, which mention that no matter how much he was taunted, my dad never used his size unfairly against an opponent.
There are several personal sides to this column. First, in those days, the cadets at West Point were not allowed to play against my father because of his skin color. However, in 2004, my son, Dolly King’s grandson, graduated from West Point and had a successful career in the United States Army.
This piece also mentions my dad’s late brother, John B. King, who was a principal at PS 26 in Brooklyn. John went on to be the first African American Deputy Chancellor in the New York City Public Schools. His son, John, is currently the Commissioner of Education for the State of New York.
I am that sure my father and his brothers would be very proud of the accomplishments their family has put forth. If I may write for my family, we are all very appreciative of those who have set our tradition in motion. They have opened the doors and now the next generation of Kings will follow.