NEW YORK (AP) — Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton broke the color barrier in the NBA as the league’s first Black players during the 1950-51 season. Clifton was the first Black player to have his contract purchased when the New York Knicks bought his deal from the Harlem Globetrotters. As part of its coverage of the NBA and its 75th season, The Associated Press is republishing verbatim the story on that deal from May 24, 1950:
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Knickerbockers made an expensive move toward strengthening their club yesterday by purchasing the contract of Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton, star center and leading scorer of the famed Harlem Globetrotters.
Clifton thus became the third Negro player to enter the ranks of the National Basketball Association. washington recently signed two Negroes, Earl Lloyd of West Virginia State and Harold Hunter of North Carolina College. Boston has the draft rights to Charley Cooper, Duquesne ace and is expected to sign him.
The purchase price for the 6-7, 225-pound Clifton was not disclosed. Clifton reportedly received a $10,000 a year salary from the Globetrotters.
Ned Irish, boss of the Knickerbockers, was hot after him last year. The Knicks’ chief weakness was at center.
An all-around athlete, the 26-year-old Chicagoan is tied up in baseball by the Cleveland Indians. Currently he is playing first base for Wilkes-Barre, Cleveland’s eastern League farm.
He led the Globetrotters in scoring during their recent national tour with the Collegiate All-Stars, netting 272 points in 18 games.
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