Chuck Cooper: The first black NBA draft pick is going to the Hall of Fame

He broke the NBA’s color barrier 69 years ago. Now, the former Boston Celtic is finally getting his due.

Before LeBron, Kobe and Michael, even before Magic, Kareem and Wilt, there was a time when black players couldn’t play in the NBA — hard to imagine since as recently as the 2015-16 season, more than 74% of the NBA was black. But in 1950, the NBA, a league that is now synonymous with black star power and athletic excellence, had never allowed a black player on a roster.

That all changed when the Boston Celtics picked Chuck Cooper in the second round of the 1950 NBA draft. He became the first African American drafted into the NBA.

Decades after leading the effort to integrate professional basketball, Cooper will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year.