Tennessee A&I Teams of 1957-1959
In the winter of 1954, the Tennessee A&I Tigers rolled into Kansas City, Missouri to play in the first integrated NAIA Christmas Tournament. The Tigers, coached by John McLendon, a disciple of the game’s inventor James Naismith, represented more than great basketball on the way to winning that holiday tournament that year. The all-black Tigers represented the future of basketball, and the soul of an entire nation. Three years later, Tennessee A&I would win the 1957 NAIA national championship, making the Tigers the first historically black college to win a national title in basketball. Led by Dick “Skull” Barnett and John “Rabbit” Barnhill, Tennessee A&I perfected the fast-break offense and full-court pressure McLendon preached. No other team in the country could keep pace with the Tigers. The following year, Barnett and Barnhill led the way again as the Tigers, less an underdog than the year prior, steamrolled the field to win a second national championship. By year three, the Tennessee A&I fast break was the unstoppable force running all the way to a third consecutive national title. Tennessee A&I was the first team to win three consecutive national championships, and along the way, the Tigers proved that America was ready for change.
1957, 1958, 1959
college team to win
a National Tournament