Before Bill Russell, Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan there was Earl Lloyd.
On October 31, 1950 the NBA changed forever, when Earl “The Big Cat” Lloyd stepped foot on a basketball court dressed for the Washington Capitals to face the Rochester Royals. Lloyd was the first African-American to ever play in the NBA. One day after Lloyd became the first black player to play in the NBA, Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics followed in his footsteps, and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton of the New York Knicks appeared four days later, too.
The untold story of Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in the NBA, is set to premiere in the spring of 2015. The First to Do it: The Life and Times of Earl Lloyd, the first African-American in the NBA is a project by directors Coodie and Chike out of Chicago. The pair previously directed Kanye West’s “Through the Wire” music video and also recently directed the ESPN “30 for 30” feature on Ben “Benji” Wilson, a gifted basketball player out of Chicago whose life was cut short due to violence.
“When we’re able to tell this story of Earl Lloyd, kids will understand that this is bigger then basketball. The barriers that he broke, what he endured during that time period and understanding what he represented as an African-American” say the directors. “Segregation, immigration, riots and more these are experiences that Earl lived through. He can share this with the nation to expose our culture to other cultures and even get a better understanding of our own culture.”
In light of the Donald Sterling fiasco, this movie is releasing right on time. 80 percent of the NBA’s players are African-Americans, and the directors are hoping for this documentary to be a positive film revolving around black history in the NBA.
Two of the films biggest backers are former San Antonio Spurs swingman Michael Finley and current Spurs PG Tony Parker. They both have donated a large portion of money to fund this project along with signed jerseys, shoes and more as a reward for fans who donate. “I care about the NBA, the game and it’s whole history. Im a big fan of 30 for 30 features and all documentaries. I was surprised no one has already told Earl’s story,” Parker says. “I think he has a great story and when he entered the NBA it changed forever. I loved Benji’s 30 for 30 and I love the way Coodie and Chike told Benji’s story so I was completely comfortable investing in this project…I just want people to know this man existed and he did amazing things. He fought and worked hard for all us and I want kids to know that the rode Earl took can be the same for them.”
Finley, who was also involved with Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” says he only invests in stories he wants to see shared with the world. “The Earl Lloyd story fits perfect in that,” Finley says.
Earl Lloyd isn’t just a retired basketball player, he paved the way for African-Americans to join the NBA. He’s a pioneer of the game that we love today. We wouldn’t be watching the Kevin Durants, Derrick Roses or Damian Lillards if it wasn’t for this man. Lloyd is currently the only surviving member of his 1950 NBA Draft class, and in 2003 Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The film is set to release in New York during NBA All-Star weekend 2015. To donate and learn more about Earl Lloyd visit the project’s website here.