Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Trim: 6¼ x 9⅜
978-1-4422-7753-3 • Hardback • December 2018 • $42.00 • (£32.00)
978-1-4422-7754-0 • eBook • December 2018 • $38.00 • (£29.00)
Douglas Stark is the museum director at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. He is the author of three books about basketball: The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team (2011), Wartime Basketball: The Emergence of a National Sport during World War II (2016), and When Basketball Was Jewish: Voices of Those Who Played the Game (2017).
Chapter 1: Early Black Professional Basketball
Chapter 2: The World Professional Basketball Tournament
Chapter 3: The National Basketball League
Chapter 4: Early Black NBA Pioneers
Chapter 5: The Rise of African American Stars in the NBA
Chapter 6: The Shadow of Michael Jordan
About the Author
Celebrating pioneering black athletes, Stark offers a succinct history of the professional basketball, beginning in 1902 with Bucky Lew’s entry in the pro leagues up through the golden era of the 1940s and ’50s. He examines the life of professional black athletes in the Jim Crow South, where they were excluded from white hotels and often forced to sleep on buses and change uniforms in rest rooms rather than locker rooms. The writing is detailed as Stark discusses the rivalry between the New York Rens (short for Renaissance) and the Harlem Globetrotters (“The Globetrotters were entertainers, not basketball purists like the Rens”) or the formation of the integrated National Basketball League in 1937. Throughout, Stark revisits long-forgotten players such as Zack Clayton, who played for the New York Rens in the 1940s; William “Dolly” King who played in the NBL’s Rochester Royals in 1946; and Chuck Cooper, who in 1950 became the first black player to be drafted into the NBA. He shows how much basketball has evolved, closing with such NBA stars as the L.A. Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who “retired with the most points in NBA history”; Bill Russell, who, with the Boston Celtics, revolutionized how defenses “could alter the game”; and the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan, “regarded as the game’s greatest player.” This is an excellent survey of the breaking of pro basketball’s color line.
— Publishers Weekly
Even the most ardent basketball fan may not know who originally integrated the sport. In contrast to the story of baseball’s Jackie Robinson, the question of who broke basketball’s color barrier is not a simple one, as there were numerous professional leagues in the US before WW II, and most of them garnered little attention. Yet Stark tells an intriguing story here, starting with the first person of color who was paid to play with whites, Bucky Lew. Other noteworthy figures are the first well-known black college player, Dolly King, and Earl Lloyd, the first black NBA player. Credit is given not just to the courage of such players, who often faced stark discrimination if not unapologetic racism, but also to their white teammates and coaches, many of whom championed integration and civil rights at their side. This entertaining book goes on to trace the explosive growth and evolution of the African American influence in basketball. The last chapter is devoted to Michael Jordan and his unparalleled impact on basketball and popular culture. Overall, this is a much-needed, careful look at the integration of one of the world’s most popular sports. Recommended.”
— Choice Reviews
In Breaking Barriers, Stark has taken on an important chapter in American Sport and in the history of desegregation in America. The book spans the history of professional basketball from its early years near the opening of the 20th century and concludes with two chapters containing mini-biographies of the major NBA stars of the past half-century. Although the desegregation of professional basket is a central focus of Breaking Barriers, there is a second focus on African American basketball and its players, both before and after segregation.
— New York Journal of Books
Douglas Stark’s Breaking Barriers: A History of Integration in Professional Basketball is an integral addition to the sporting library, as the first volumes about Black baseball were to chronicling Negro League play and ownership. Copiously researched, the text is a comprehensive, entertaining account of the pioneering teams and figures who toiled long before the days of television deals and shoe contracts. Readers and fans seeking to gain a perspective on today's game should familiarize themselves through this narrative, with the exciting oral history of Black contribution to integrated touring teams, organized leagues, collegiate ball, and the style of play now accepted as standard.
— Bijan C. Bayne, author, Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball and Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball