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Today In NBA History: A Significant Milestone Was Broken

On April 25, 1950, the Boston Celtics made history by selecting Chuck Cooper, an All-American forward from Duquesne University, as the first African American player in the NBA draft. Cooper’s journey was marked by courage, talent, and a commitment to change the league for the better.


Born on September 29, 1926, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cooper grew up in what seems like a typical family. His father, Daniel, worked as a mailman, and his mother, Emma, was a school teacher. Chuck attended Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse High School, where he excelled on the basketball court. His senior year saw him average over 13 points per game, earning him a spot on the All-City first-team center.


After a brief stint at West Virginia State College, Cooper enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. Following his service, he enrolled at Duquesne University, where he became an All-American. Over four seasons, he set a school record with 990 total points. The 1949–50 Duquesne team, led by Cooper as captain, achieved a remarkable 23–6 record and was nationally ranked throughout the season.


In 1950, Cooper’s groundbreaking moment arrived when the Boston Celtics drafted him with the 14th overall pick in the NBA Draft. He became the first African American player ever to be selected, breaking the league’s color barrier. Cooper’s impact extended beyond the court—he paved the way for future generations of Black athletes.


What Did He Accomplish During His NBA Career?


During his six-season NBA career, Cooper played for the Celtics, the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks, and the Fort Wayne Pistons. His versatility as a small forward and shooting guard contributed to his averages of 6.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Cooper’s legacy transcends statistics; he symbolizes resilience, determination, and progress.


In 2019, Chuck Cooper was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, recognizing his contributions to the game. His journey remains an inspiration, reminding us that sports can be a powerful force for change.


Today, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Chuck Cooper’s historic draft, let us honor his memory and acknowledge the impact he had on the NBA and the world of sports.




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