Race and ethnicity in the NBA
The composition of race and ethnicity in the National Basketball Association (NBA) has changed throughout the league's history. The first non-white player entered the league in 1947. According to racial equality activist Richard Lapchick, the NBA in 2011 was composed of 78 percent black players, 17 percent white players, four percent Latinos (of any race), and one percent Asian. The league has the highest percentage of African American players of any major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.
Wataru Misaka debuted in 1947 as the first non-white and Asian-American player in the league. Blacks first appeared in the NBA in 1950. Chuck Cooper was the first black player drafted in the NBA. On April 26, 1950, Harold Hunter signed with the Washington Capitols, becoming the first African American to sign a contract with any NBA team in history. However, Hunter was cut from the team during training camp and did not play professionally. On May 24, Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton was the second African-American player to sign an NBA contract.[a] Earl Lloyd was the first to play in the NBA. Hank DeZonie also played that year. With the emergence of African-American players by the 1960s, the NBA game was stylistically being played faster and above the rim. Many of the league's great players were black. At that time, African Americans believed they were limited by an unofficial league quota of four black players per team. In 1963, Don Barksdale became the first African American to play in an NBA All-Star Game.
Hall of Fame player and Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird, who is white, stated in 2004 that the league needed more white players since the league's fans are mostly white. "And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them [the fans, not the guys] a little excited. But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American," said Bird.
- African American
- Latino (of any race)
Bill Russell in 1966 became the first non-white and African-American head coach in the NBA. In the late 1980s, teams began hiring black coaches in large numbers. At the start of the 2015–16 season, there were seven black head coaches in the league, down 50 percent from three years earlier, and the fewest in 16 years.
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