Chuck Cooper, one of the NBA's first Black players
Cooper with Auerbach, 1950
On this date in 1926, Chuck Cooper was born. He was an African American basketball player and later a city official.
He was born in Pittsburgh, the son of Daniel and Emma Cooper. He played basketball and graduated from Westinghouse High School and attended West Virginia State before entering the Navy during World War II. After his service, the 6’5” Cooper attended Duquesne University and was one of the first Black All-Americans. On April 25, 1950 Cooper broke the color barrier in the National Basketball Association (NBA) when he was drafted by the Boston Celtics.
According to his coach Red Auerbach, Cooper “had to go through hell” as the first Black in the sport. He played for six seasons and with fellow rookie and roommate Bob Cousy they revitalized a mediocre team. He then played a season for the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks and the Fort Wayne Pistons, before finishing his career outside the NBA with the Harlem Magicians.
Cooper later earned a Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota, served on Pittsburgh’s school board, and became the city’s first Black department head as director of parks and recreation. Chuck Cooper also worked as supervisor of Pittsburgh’s National Bank’s affirmative action program before he died in 1984.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
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