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Photo of Nat Clifton

Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton

He got the nickname Sweetwater for his love of soda pop, but the moniker might just as well have described his sugary-sweet skills on the basketball court. Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton was the first African-American player to sign a contract in the NBA to catch on with a team when he signed with the New York Knickerbockers in 1950. Already an accomplished athlete, Clifton’s professional basketball career was actually launched with the New York Rens shortly after World War II. His long arms and big hands then translated into a short playing stint with the famed Harlem Globetrotters, where he was a showman for owner Abe Saperstein. His exceptional ball-handling skills and superb athleticism made him a wanted man, and his 6’7” frame made him a versatile tool on a loaded Knicks roster. Clifton spent seven seasons in New York where he averaged a double-double in points and rebounds for two consecutive seasons and made the All-Star team in 1957.

Enshrined

2014

Born

October 13, 1922 Little Rock, AR

Died

August 31, 1990

College

Xavier (La.)

Professional Career

Detroit Pistons New York Knicks Harlem Globetrotters New York Rens Chicago Majors

Career Stats

6' 8" HEIGHT
C/F POSITION
1st AFRICAN-AMERICAN PLAYER
TO SIGN AN NBA CONTRACT
2 YEARS AVERAGING A
DOUBLE-DOUBLE IN
POINTS AND REBOUNDS
1x NBA ALLSTAR
8.2 CAREER REBOUNDS PER GAME