Monday, December 05, 2022

NBA in the 60s: Embryo Details Humiliation, Little Support | NWN News

CLEVELAND (NWN) — (Editor’s Note: Hall of Famer Wayne Embry, a five-time NBA All-Star and the first African American general manager in the game when the Milwaukee Bucks named him to that position in 1972, shared some of his experience in the 1960s. Civil rights demands and the Vietnam War were among the issues dividing the country and the NBA was building the foundation on which the league and players stand today.)

The sixties were a turbulent time in our country – and in the NBA – as the civil rights fight broke out.

That fight reached my hotel room in Philadelphia in the spring of 1965, when my wife, Terri, called from Cincinnati to tell me that she and Oscar Robertson’s wife, Yvonne Selma, to Montgomery were on Dr. Martin is going to join Luther King’s march.

“Are you mad?” I asked. It was less than two weeks after Bloody Sunday, when Alabama state troops attacked nonviolent marchers with tear gas, clubs and dogs after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Of course, I admired his courage and sympathized with the cause. But league officials made it clear they didn’t want us to get involved and that insecurities about our jobs sidelined us – and were glued to television.

What a wonder to watch with pride as NBA players 55 years later not only participated in but led marches in the protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The Milwaukee Bucks, upset over the shooting of African-American Jacob Blake by a white police officer in nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin, were prepared to boycott a first-round playoff game and join the boycott of five other teams, The league postponed all games in support.

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But things were very different in the NBA in the 1960s, The league was so insignificant that I aspired to play for the Harlem Globetrotters—or go to business school. I wasn’t sure there was a place for me in the NBA. If not for Joe Lapchik, the first coach of the New York Knicks, He pulled me aside to a college All-Star game, briefed me about the league and told me that I could have a bright future in the NBA.

In 1958, I was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks, who had no black players, and was almost immediately traded to the Cincinnati Royals, who had a -C Green. And he was traded on opening night, leaving me black alone until the Oscars two years later, My first contract was for $6,300 a year – not a guarantee – which I signed without hesitation.

There were rumors of a quota system in the league – and I can tell you that the rumors were true. The veteran Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play a game in the league, once told me to always play my best so that my team wouldn’t bite me.

The league consisted of eight teams, each with 10 players. We often went for road sports, with three or four of us packed into the car. Back then, there were still hotels that didn’t have black players or restaurants that didn’t serve us. Often we used to eat at Bill Russell’s house while playing in Boston. In other cities, we’ll have dinner at other black players’ homes, or get recommendations on where we can eat.

Progress was being made in the 1960s, following Lapchik’s initial efforts to integrate what would become the NBA in 1947.

The Celtics introduced five black players and Russell became the first black coach in the league. My Royals was providing a beautiful depiction of race relations every day when white Jack Tweeman and his family became primary caregivers for black teammate Maurice Stokes, a powerful player who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall during a game. cut. He was paralyzed by coma and unable to speak. Twyman and Stokes were inseparable examples of love and friendship.

We had all learned things from the nonviolent movement going on around us, and we put them to good use ahead of the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston—the first to be broadcast nationally. At a players-only meeting convened by Boston’s Tommy Heinsohn, we voted not to play the game until the owners recognized our newly formed union.

After a few tense moments as tipoff arrived, the owners finally agreed. Our bold move has set a path for a future that benefits players and owners.

the country was progressing, too, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. We thought that might help ease the pain in the wake of President John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, but even five years later, King was not assassinated, as was Kennedy’s brother Robert. , the former attorney general who was running for the presidency in 1968.

Until then, I was playing for the Celtics, who were on their way to the 1968 NBA Championship. After the assassination of the king in April, riots broke out again. As players, we were not inclined to play in Dr. King’s honor. But word got out from the league office that the mayors of Boston and Philadelphia (our rivals in the Eastern Division Finals) were requesting us to play in an effort to keep people home and off the streets. So we played that game and postponed the next one, restarting the playoffs after Dr. King’s funeral.

After winning the NBA title in 1968, I was selected by Milwaukee in the expansion draft, played one season, and retired. That season my salary went up to $40,000 – almost seven times more than my first season. There were a lot of changes in and off the league, on and off the court, progress and setbacks. The next decade will bring new challenges – and new celebrations – for me, the league and the country.


Wayne Embry was the NBA Executive of the Year in 1992 and 1998. The 6-foot-8 forward/center was named to the Hall of Fame in 1999. Since 2004, 84-year-old Embry has been a senior basketball consultant. Toronto Raptors.


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