True, there are plenty of basketball stories right now amid the March Madness and the ever-tightening races for playoff position in the NBA. But there’s an important addition that should not be overlooked. This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of a landmark event in basketball.
On March 28, 1939, the New York Renaissance, an all-black professional team, defeated the all-white Oshkosh All Stars in the World Professional Basketball Tournament at the Chicago Coliseum. This took place several years before the formation of the National Basketball Association, when there were many loose assemblages of professional teams, some white and some black.
The black teams were typically known as Black Fives—the five players on the court—and the African-American circuit was a close parallel to the Negro Leagues of Baseball. But in baseball, there was never a true World Series between a then all-white team like the New York Yankees and an all-black powerhouse like the Homestead Grays or Kansas City Monarchs. That distinction belongs to basketball.
(Note: Thank you to Martin Johnson for selecting this story as a front page feature on TheRoot.com where he is a frequent contributor. His writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, and other major publications.)