From Library Journal
Thomas's is probably one of the two or three best books about professional basketball ever read by this reviewer. The compelling narrative will hold every reader's interest. Although the current National Basketball Association (NBA) is over 80 percent black, African Americans did not enter the league until 1950. Yet even the most dedicated NBA fan would be hard-pressed to identify such pioneers as Harold Hunter (the first black player to sign an NBA contract), Earl Lloyd (the first black to play in an NBA game), and Chuck Cooper (the first to be drafted by an NBA team). The book describes their trials and triumphs and then more briefly traces the rise of the black athlete as a force in the league. It was not easy, as there were official and unofficial "quotas," and local harassment could make traveling with the teams a real ordeal. This book is important not just for basketball fans but for those who want to understand the role played by African Americans in the development of the NBA and big-time sports today. Highly recommended. William Scheeren, Hempfield Area H.S. Lib., Greensburg, PA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
The current racial mix of the NBA is about 90 percent black and 10 percent white. Blacks hold a large percentage of the coaching positions, and there are black general managers and part owners. No one thinks much about it anymore, but that wasn't always the case. Thomas, a San Francisco Chronicle
sportswriter, presents an overview of the NBA's first black players, the social and racial barriers they encountered, and the gradual progress they made. Among those profiled are Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, Chuck Cooper, and Don Barksdale, the league's first black All-Star. Though the earliest black players were primarily rebounding and defensive specialists, it wasn't long before the first generations of superstars arrived: Russell, Chamberlain, Robertson, and Baylor. Most long-term NBA fans are aware of the NBA's role at the forefront of sports integration, but Thomas places a very human face on it and points out that there were sacrifices made and risks taken to bring the league to its current position as the world's top professional sports attraction. Wes LukowskyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved