Zack Clayton as a member of the New York Rens.

Zack Clayton as a member of the New York Rens.

Zachariah “Zack” Clayton, one of the all-time greatest basketball players of the Black Fives Era as a star for the New York Renaissance and other teams, was born on May 4, 1910 in Philadelphia.

Clayton played guard for the “Rens” from 1936 to 1946, during which time he also appeared briefly with the Harlem Globetrotters as well as with the Washington Bears, while winning two World Professional Basketball Tournament championships.

In 1939, Clayton led the Rens to the inaugural World Championship of Professional Basketball title and was named to the All Tournament team. In 1943, he helped the Bears win that same title while being named to the All Tournament Second Team. “We were able to beat the white teams because of our quickness,” Clayton remembered years later.

Clayton also played professional baseball in the Negro Leagues as a brilliant first baseman with the Philadelphia Stars, Bacharach Giants, New York Black Yankees, and Philadelphia Giants.

Considered one of the ten most talented early African American athletes ever developed in Philadelphia — alongside Wilt Chamberlain, “Tarzan” Cooper, Roy Campanella, and a few others — Clayton was enshrined in the Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989. “I think the Harlem Globetrotters, Renaissance, and the Bears paved the way for blacks by defeating the best white teams for the world championships,” he said at the time. “That was a major accomplishment for blacks in the sport of basketball.”