The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on April 1, 2017 that Black Fives Era pioneer Zachariah “Zack” Clayton has been elected for enshrinement as a member of its Class of 2017!

We are especially proud of Clayton’s enshrinement, since he has been on our “Most Deserving” list for some time.

Clayton was one of the all-time greatest basketball players of the Black Fives Era. He played guard for the New York Renaissance aka “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 basketball world 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.

He grew up in Philadelphia and is considered one of the ten most talented early African American athletes ever developed in that city — alongside Wilt Chamberlain, “Tarzan” Cooper, Roy Campanella, and a few others — Clayton was enshrined in the Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Clayton was directly elected by the Hall of Fame’s Early African American Basketball Pioneers Committee, which was formed in 2011. Prior inductees elected by this special committee were Reece “Goose” Tatum, Don Barksdale, Edwin Bancroft Henderson, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs, and Cumberland Posey, Jr.

After retiring from pro basketball, Clayton became a career firefighter, and, more amazingly, became a boxing referee.

Read more about Zack Clayton in these articles on our website.