After starring at Westinghouse High School and Duquesne, Chuck Cooper became legendary for breaking barriers by becoming the first African-American basketball player to be selected in the NBA Draft.
Cooper, who died at age 57 in 1984, was elected Saturday to be recognized posthumously with the 2019 class in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Cooper was chosen from 14 nominees in the Early African-American Pioneers category and is one of 12 honorees to be enshrined Sept. 6 in Springfield, Mass.
He was the first African American to play in a college basketball game south of the Mason-Dixon line and was the first African American to be drafted by an NBA team, Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics in 1950. We posthumously congratulate Charles “Chuck” Cooper. #19HoopClass pic.twitter.com/GrGs8U1qxh
— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) April 6, 2019
After Westinghouse, Cooper spent one semester at West Virginia State before being drafted into the Navy during World War II. When he returned, the 6-foot-5 forward played at Duquesne from 1946-50, becoming a 1,000-point scorer, consensus All-American and leading the Dukes to as high as a No. 2 national ranking.
Cooper also has the distinction of being the first African-American to play in a college basketball game south of the Mason-Dixon line.
After playing for the Harlem Globetrotters, Cooper was chosen in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft (No. 14 overall) by the Boston Celtics. He made his debut on Nov. 1, 1950, breaking the color barrier that season along with Earl Lloyd and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton.
As a rookie, Cooper averaged 9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 66 games. He also played for the Milwaukee Hawks and Fort Wayne Pistons, finishing his seven-year NBA career with 2,725 points and 2,431 rebounds.
The Hall of Fame class also includes coach Bill Fitch, players Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief, Jack Sikma, Teresa Weatherspoon and Paul Westphal, contributor Al Attles, Vlade Divac from the International Committee, Carl Braun from the Veterans Committee and two teams: Tennessee A&I, which became the first men’s college team to win back-to-back national championships (1957-59); and the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens (1948-82) from the Women’s Veterans Committee.
“The globally celebrated game of basketball would not be what it is today without the many remarkable men and women who have broken barriers and paved the way for future generations,” said John Doleva, president of the Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame. “The Class of 2019 is brimming with those who have had a significant historical impact on the game we love. We thank them for their contributions to the game and look forward to honoring them during enshrinement this fall.”