NBA: Earl Lloyd, league`s first black player, dies

Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in a National Basketball Association game, has died at the age of 86.

NBA: Earl Lloyd, league`s first black player, dies

West Virginia State University: Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in a National Basketball Association game, has died at the age of 86.

Friends of the Lloyd family called the WXYZ television station in Detroit to report Lloyd`s death, which was later confirmed by his alma mater, West Virginia State University.

"The State family mourns the loss of a fellow Yellow Jacket and trailblazer who was a true champion both on and off of the basketball court," university president Brian Hemphill said in a statement, which did not give a cause of death.

"When Earl stepped out on the court on that fateful date in 1950, this remarkable man rightfully earned his place in the historic civil rights movement and, more important, he opened the door to equality in America."

Lloyd made his first NBA appearance with the Washington Capitols on October 31, 1950.

African-American players Charles Cooper with the Celtics and Nat Clifton with the Knicks both came into the NBA in the same 1950-51 season.

But the league schedule meant the distinction of becoming the first African-American actually to play in a game went to Lloyd, nicknamed "The Big Cat".

The Capitols folded in 1951, but Lloyd went on to win a championship in 1955 with the Syracuse Nationals and finished his 10-year playing career with the Detroit Pistons.

At the time of his retirement, Lloyd was 43rd on the NBA career scoring list with 4,682 points.

He went on to coach the Pistons from 1971-72, and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2003.

Lloyd, a Virginia native, lived in Crossville, Tennessee, at the time of his death.