HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The Rockets are doing their part to honor NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd, the league’s first African-American player. Lloyd passed away Thursday at the age of 86.
On Friday, the Rockets wore black T-shirts during pregame as their way to commemorate and bring awareness to Lloyd, whose NBA debut came in 1950 with the Washington Capitols.
“It means a lot,” Terrence Jones said. “He definitely changed the game for our race and the culture of the game. Being the first to get things established, it means a lot for the history and for me personally.”
Modern-day athletes can undoubtedly feel Lloyd’s impact on the game. The players from years past have actually seen the cultural changes that have transpired following Lloyd’s entrance into the league.
“He did it his whole career in such a professional, humble, classy way that it went unnoticed,” said Nets head coach Lionel Hollins, in town as his team played the Rockets. “It wasn’t about Earl Lloyd. I got a chance to talk to him a couple of years ago. He was like, ‘Hey, I wasn’t trying to be a hero. I was just trying to get a job and take care of my family.’ And that’s the way he approached it. Most people didn’t know who he was until he died. That’s unfortunate, but the guy meant a lot to the league, meant a lot to all the African-American players, and not just being the first, but in the way he did it. I think if he had done it a different way, it’s like if Jackie Robinson had done it a different way, there wouldn’t be any African-American players playing, I can guarantee you that.
“But they did it in a way that we could be proud of,” Hollins continued. “They represented themselves and their families. They didn’t represent me. They just represented themselves and family. And it’s a legacy that every player that comes along should honor by trying to do it the same way – being humble, being professional, being classy, work hard, just doing your job for the sake of doing your job, and I think that we would be better off in society if everybody did that.”