Monday, November 26, 2018

NBA Pioneer Leader On and Off the Court

One of the pioneers of integration in the National Basketball Association, Willie Naulls passed away recently at the age of 84. Willie Naulls became the first African-American team captain in "integrated professional sports history" when his New York Knicks teammates voted him into the captain role early in his career.  When Naulls played in his first All-Star Game, in January 1958, he joined Bill Russell and Maurice Stokes as the only African-American players on the court. He once held two Knicks scoring records--a single-season mark in 1960-61 with 1,846 points, an average of 23.4 a game, and a record for scoring at least 30 points in seven consecutive games. He was a leader off the court as well on the court.  Naulls spent the final five decades of his life helping underserved youth through a nonprofit organization he founded, and became a minister who wrote eight books to inspire others.I often saw him riding on the NYC subways going to the old Madison Square Garden for a game, and he was always very friendly and approachable, and encouraged his younger fans to get a good education while rooting for the Knicks.

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