Location: Harlem, New York City
Home Court: Manhattan Casino
Nickname: “The All Stars”
Colors: Team Red, Ivory, College Blue
Manager: Major A. Hart
The New York All Stars, an all-black basketball team of the 1910, paved the way for professionalism in the sport among African Americans.
In 1910, playing basketball for pay was widely considered an unthinkable taboo among the game’s authorities as well as with the general public. Even well established white professional basketball leagues were criticized by the inventors of the game.
It was thought that basketball, which had been invented in the realm of Christianity by the YMCA, ought to be reserved exclusively for balancing one’s “mind, body, and spirit.” Such practices as “player jumping,” where a given player jumped to another team to stack their lineup for one game, were
severely criticized or sanctioned.
So when a black man named Major Aloysius Hart left his position as coach, manager, and promoter of the St. Christopher Club, and took the team’s best players with him to form a new African American basketball team called the New York All Stars, the Negro press immediately suspected the “evils of professionalism” and the area’s local amateur clubs were outraged.
Led by Charles Bradford, who also played pro baseball for the Pittsburgh Colored Giants, as well as Ferdinand Accooe and Charles Scottron, both formerly of the Smart Set, the All Stars had all the ingredients to dominate black basketball in New York City.
They also featured future black basketball pioneer Will Anthony Madden as their mascot. As a colorful manager and promoter, Madden would later lead two different black fives to four Colored Basketball World’s Championships in the 1910s.
The All Stars planned to split basketball gate proceeds in the same way that white semi-pro basketball teams routinely did.
However, led by St. Christopher, New York City’s amateur teams boycotted the All Stars, initially forcing Hart to take his club on the road. Hart responded by inviting big ticket out of town teams to New York City, like Howard University, and the 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” Five from Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont, the Army’s black basketball champions.
Hart began scheduling All Star games at the Manhattan Casino in Harlem, an arena that would soon become the America’s mecca of black basketball, and for a time black sportswriters began to warm up.
However, Hart was unable to change negative public opinion about his move, and the All Stars lost momentum, finally disbanding after the 1912-13 season.
Although his efforts were ahead of their time and failed, Major Hart’s flirt with professionalism emboldened other black fives to mimic his efforts, paving the way for later breakthroughs by such champions as the New York Incorporators, the Loendi Big Five, the Commonwealth Big Five, and ultimately, the New York Rens who were eventually inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.