Earl Lloyd

New Statue in Alexandria Honors Earl Lloyd, First Black Man to Play in NBA

The Alexandria native died in 2015

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A special dedication to the late NBA-player Earl Lloyd takes place in his hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, this weekend, where a statue was raised in his honor.

Lloyd was a game-changer, being the first African American to play in the NBA. He was then the first Black NBA assistant coach and later the head coach of the Detroit Pistons.

Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, the odds were against him.

“When you see a man who came from humble beginnings as we all did, from total segregation, it was separate but unequal ... in terms of facilities and amenities,” said Jimmy Lewis, one of Lloyd’s friends.

Because of those barriers Lloyd had to break, Lewis finds his achievements even more remarkable.

“We’re so proud we can call him our own, and all throughout his accomplishments … he remained the same kind, humble, generous and always selfless Earl Lloyd,” Lewis said.

A larger-than-life bronze statue of Lloyd was put on display at West Virginia State University, his alma mater, in 2014. One year later, Lloyd passed away.

Alexandria placed a matching statue of Lloyd inside the Charles Houston Recreation Center.

The statue is part of a bigger Alexandria African American Hall of Fame that includes doctors, lawyers and judges.

“Hopefully it can inspire future generations to become what Earl Lloyd was and give them some hope and understanding of the significant Black history of Alexandria,” said Julian “Butch” Haley, the chair of Alexandria’s African American Hall of Fame.

And at a time when some statues are being taken down, Lewis says, it’s time for one like this — of a Black man — to go up.

“Times are changing, and this is a positive change without a doubt,” Lewis said.

CORRECTION (April 3, 2021, 6:47 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Earl Lloyd's alma mater. He attended West Virginia State University.

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