A Charleston recreation center or basketball court may soon bear the name of a basketball great with local ties.
The family of Earl Lloyd, a member of the West Virginia State University Hall of Fame and the first Black athlete to play in an NBA game, is working with Charleston Parks and Recreation on a way of honoring Lloyd’s legacy and his love of the Kanawha Valley by naming something after him.
“He came down and he fell in love with the city,” his son, Earl Lloyd Jr. said. “West Virginia State was good to him and he was good to West Virginia State. Those four years at West Virginia State, their basketball team was outstanding.”
Originally of Alexandria, Virginia, the elder Lloyd was a two-time All-America selection and a three-time all-conference selection.
He led West Virginia State to titles in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1948 and 1949. He was drafted into the NBA by the Washington Capitols in 1950. On Oct. 31, 1950, he became the first African-American to play in an NBA game during a match against the Rochester Royals.
“Every Black player that comes through that door, the NBA door, my father made it possible for them,” Lloyd Jr. told the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee over the phone during a meeting Thursday evening. “My father opened the door for Michael Jordan to be a billionaire, Lebron James to be a billionaire, ... and a host of others that have the kind of lives that they have today — that’s because of my father. He just opened the door for so many people.”
After he graduated from West Virginia State and joined the NBA, Lloyd would come back to Charleston and host basketball clinics for children here, his son said.
The city of Charleston is working to build a park at the corner of Beatrice and Washington streets, on the West Side. The park would have two basketball courts and playground equipment.
It would cost about $225,000 to build.
“I think those new basketball courts on the West Side would be a good fit for this, and right now ... that’s kind of blank slate, as far as some of the things that are going in there,” Parks and Recreation Committee Chairwoman Caitlin Cook said during the meeting.
Lloyd Jr. said he’d like to see the city name a recreation center for his father.
He’s in the process of reaching out to the NBA teams his father played for, as well as companies that do business with the NBA, to see if they’ll sponsor. He’s also open to making a contribution himself, he said.
When the city has a better understanding of the amount of money that could be raised, it can determine in what ways it can honor Lloyd’s legacy, Cook said. That could be anything from a sign on a basketball court to a basketball clinic like the ones he used to lead in Charleston, Cook said.
“This is the man who broke barriers, and he has ties to Charleston, West Virginia, and his family wants to honor that legacy,” Cook said. “They want to be able to do that in an area that their father came to host basketball clinics, to hopefully open doors for those kids who would come on down the line.”