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Earl Lloyd’s son pushes for historic U.S. stamp

The NBA pioneer’s son seeks support to get stamp for dad, who was first black player

There is a major effort to land an NBA trailblazer on a U.S. postage stamp. Kevin Lloyd, the son of the late Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in the NBA, is leading a nationwide campaign to get his dad’s photo on a postage stamp.

“We’re pushing it,” Lloyd told The Undefeated. “It’s very exciting. My family is helping me out. It’s overwhelming and it’s nice that a lot of people are showing this kind of love for my father. It means a lot to me and my family.”

Lloyd, 54, who lives in Atlanta and works for Delta Airlines, started this huge undertaking in August 2015. He has organized petition drives around the country that have been sent to the U.S. Postal Service.

“We have 14,000 names on petitions right now,” Lloyd said. “I just sent another 1,500. I’ve been to different games where people can sign petitions in support of the effort. The Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers really helped us out in getting the signatures.

“West Virginia State had a Earl Lloyd Night. We had all the teams and fans come to the game and sign petitions. We want to get 50,000 names on petitions like Wilt Chamberlain.”

Earl Lloyd is a terrific candidate to have a postage stamp in his honor. Chamberlain, a Basketball Hall of Famer, received two limited Forever postage stamps from the U.S. Postal Service on Dec. 5, 2014, making him the first basketball player to have his photo on a postage stamp.

Lloyd died on Feb. 26, 2015. He was 86 years old. His groundbreaking accomplishments that led to the integration of the NBA should never be forgotten. Lloyd made his first NBA appearance on Oct. 31, 1950, with the Washington Capitols. He preceded African-American NBA pioneers Chuck Cooper and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton. Cooper made his NBA debut with the Boston Celtics, one night following Lloyd. Clifton didn’t make his first appearance until three days later with the New York Knicks.

Lloyd was a big-time player. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward was a great defender and rebounder. In 1955, Lloyd and his teammate, Jim Tucker, led the Syracuse Nationals to the NBA championship, making them the first black players to play on a championship team.

Lloyd played nine seasons in the NBA with the Washington Capitols, Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. During the 1951-52 season, he served in the U.S. Army and didn’t play in the NBA. After his playing career, he was the head coach of the Detroit Pistons during the 1971-72 season and for nine games during the 1972-73 season.

Before he entered the NBA, Lloyd was a legend among historically black colleges and universities, playing at West Virginia State University. He guided WVSU to an undefeated 23-0 record as a senior in 1950 and captured the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) championship. That year, he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds a game for the Yellow Jackets.

Lloyd’s pioneering exploits and contributions to the game have opened the doors for today’s black players in the NBA. A postage stamp with his likeness would provide a lot of young people with a chance to learn about his legacy.

“I think what we’re doing is historical,” Kevin Lloyd said. “My dad made it possible for a lot of black players to play in the NBA. I really appreciate all the people like Michele Roberts [executive director of the National Basketball Players Association], the Retired NBA Players Association, the Hall of Fame, the NBA legends and the general public who have gotten behind this effort.”

The elder Lloyd was a major part of the award-winning ESPN documentary, Black Magic. In 2003, he was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. His son hopes to continue to boost the effort with help from the NBA and President Barack Obama.

“I did talk with the NBA,” Lloyd said. “I have to send some information to Charlie Rosenzweig [senior vice president of entertainment and player marketing for NBA Entertainment]. He works for Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner.

“I’m in the process of trying to get the White House involved. I’m trying to reach President Obama. He knows my father. He has written us three letters. We would like to get him on board.”

Lloyd said one of the letters from the president acknowledged his father’s accomplishment of being the first black player in the NBA.

Fans can send letters of support addressed to: Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300, Washington, D.C. 20260-3501.

Donald Hunt, a writer for the Philadelphia Tribune, is a longtime ESPN contributor who has covered Historically Black Colleges and Universities.