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Photo of Charles "Chuck" Cooper

Charles "Chuck" Cooper

On April 25, 1950, Charles “Chuck” Cooper made history when he became the first African-American player to be drafted by an NBA team. The Boston Celtics, led by influential owner Walter Brown and his persuasive sidekick Red Auerbach, selected Cooper with the 13th overall pick in the second round. That same year, the crafty Auerbach enjoyed the good fortune of having Bob Cousy land in his lap when the Chicago Stags folded. The two Celtic rookies stood poised to turn around the struggling franchise. Cooper, a 6-foot-5-inch forward, joined fellow African-American players Earl Lloyd and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton in a sort of holy trinity that broke the color barrier in the NBA. The Big Three faced discrimination in restaurants, hotels, and the very arenas in which they played. Cooper kept his cool when a new hotel on the exhibition circuit refused him service or fans from a rival city shouted racial slurs. He shouldered a tremendous burden with grace, humility, and a sense of history that told him better days were always ahead – if not for him, for an entire race of people. A former All-America at Duquesne, Cooper played for the Harlem Globetrotters, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks, and Fort Wayne Pistons.




September 29, 1926 Pittsburgh, PA


February 05, 1984



Professional Career

Boston Celtics Fort Wayne Pistons Milwaukee Hawks St. Louis Hawks

Career Stats

FIRST African American
Drafted into NBA
1950 Consensus
No. 15 Retired by
Duquesne University