The sporty New York Renaissance

Bob Douglas is the first African-American elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

Before there was Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue, there was one legendary African-American coach that formed his own team after facing racial prejudice from the segregated NBA. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Bob Douglas. Douglas was a renowned basketball coach, mostly known for the foundation of the New York Renaissance who were also called the Renaissance Big Five. 

Known as “The Father of Black Professional Basketball,” Douglas coached the team from its inception in 1922 to its demise in 1949. 

Although racial discrimination was strong and prevalent during this era in history, Douglas and the New York Renaissance preserved and fought their way to glory.

 The pro-black team was a dominant force in the 1920s and 1930s. 

In fact, they were winners of the first ever World Professional Basketball Tournament against the Oshkosh All-Stars in Chicago, Illinois. 

The team would go on to play against other all-white teams which drew in some of their biggest crowds ever. In 1936, the Renaissance became the first top-level team to sign a four-year African American college star, David “Big Dave” DeJernett. 

With their strategic coach Douglas guiding them to victory, the New York Renaissance were able to win eighty-eight consecutive games, a feat that has never been matched by any professional basketball team of the period. 

However, the New York Renaissance reign would come to a screeching halt after the 1948-49 Basketball season. 

Not only did the team move from Harlem, New York to Dayton, Ohio, they eventually folded into the racially integrated National Basketball League. 

Ironically, the National Basketball League quickly dissolved as it merged with the all-white league known as the Basketball Association of America. 

The combination of these two professional basketball leagues formed what is now currently affiliated with the current state of the sport, National Basketball Association.

While the many average citizens may not know who Douglas was, his legacy and impact on basketball will not be forgotten. He broke barriers by getting one of his players, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, to be the first African-American to play in the newly formed NBA. 

On Feb. 5, 1972, the famed “Father of Black Professional Basketball” was a recipient of being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, making him the first African-American ever to be inducted. 

Although he died on July 16, 1979, Douglas’s leadership helped keep the team pushing to new heights that were deemed impossible for black people at the time. Bob Douglas and the New York Renaissance opened the doors for a new wave of black athletes that nurtures the modern world of basketball. 

The New York Renaissance were also the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary produced by the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that was released to the general audience, who was fascinated by the  story of a group of athletes who inspired their own and gained worldwide recognition. 

They not only defied the status quo placed on them by society but showed that African-Americans could be equal to White people. The New York Renaissance helped recognize the bigger potential within Black people. 

They helped represent that no one should be segregated or discriminated against just because of the color of their skin.

~Elijah Williams, Staff Writer~


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