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Earl Lloyd Dead at 86: First Black NBA Player And Basketball Hall Of Fame Inductee Remembered For His Skill And Modesty [PHOTO]

By Marisa Lewis | February 27, 2015 09:17 PM EST

This past Thursday, American professional basketball player Earl Lloyd passed away. Lloyd is known for being the first black NBA player in history, and NPR reports that he was in Crossville, Tenn., with his wife Charlita at the time of his death. The details of his death are currently unknown.

According to ESPN, Lloyd's alma mater, West Virginia State, confirmed his death. NBA commissioner Adam Silver also made a statement reading, "The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs. Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understated. He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class, and pride. His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate, and the entire NBA family will strive to always honor his memory. Our deepest condolences to the Lloyd family."

Standing at 6'5", Lloyd was known as "the Big Cat." Throughout his career, he averaged 8.4 points during 560 regular-season NBA games. He had many accomplishments, including serving in the U.S. army, playing for the Detroit Pistons, and winning the 1955 NBA championship for the Syracuse Nationals.  TIME reports that he also became the NBA's first black assistant coach in 1968, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

In a 2010 talk with NPR's Diane Hansen, Lloyd said of his legacy, "One kid said to me, he said, Mr. Lloyd, we really owe you. And I explained to him, man, you owe me absolutely nothing. I said, whatever kind of career I had, it has served me well, but you do owe some people. And the people you owe are the folks who are going to come behind you. It's incumbent upon each watch - when you play your 10, 11 years and you're in your group - when you leave, I truly hope that you've done all you can possibly do to leave it a better place for the folks who come behind you."

Lloyd is survived by his wife and his three sons.

Tagged :  Earl Lloyd, NBA, death

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