PRESERVING HISTORY & LEGACIES
Each month we will present time tested stories and tributes of the HBCU legends and legacies that have been treasured or forgotten.
Pioneers of Black College Basketball
John B. McLendon Jr.
James A. Naismith
Edwin B. Henderson
The creator of basketball, James Naismith, mentored some of the game’s greatest coaches, including Phog Allen of Kansas, Adolph Rupp of Kentucky, and Dean Smith of North Carolina. As he began to promote the sport, he may not have realized it, but he also had a significant impact on the growth of Black college basketball through his connections with John McLendon, Jr. ( who was not allowed to play basketball at Kansas but was close to Naismith when he served as athletic director) and Edwin Henderson, the educator known as the “Father of Black Basketball.”
One of the most renowned basketball coaches in America, McLendon studied under Naismith at Kansas University and is credited with e completely changing the game with his “Four Corners” and “fast break” concepts. His North Carolina Central team played in the “Secret Game,” the first time a Black college team faced a White squad (Duke medical school) in the South during the Jim Crow era.
McLendon later led the Tennessee State A&I teams to three straight NAIA titles, making history in the process. Even though he does not receive the same recognition as his white peers, his legacy is well known.
The “Father of Black Basketball” Edwin Henderson was the first male African-American physical education instructor in Washington, D.C. (and arguably the first in the entire country), and is credited to teaching basketball to African Americans students in 1904.
He received degrees from, Howard University, and Columbia University and a PhD Central from Chiropractic College. Duke Ellington and Charles Drew were two of the many students in the Washington, D.C., area whom Henderson mentored and taught the game of basketball.
He wrote his landmark work, The Negro In Sports and co-authored with the Spalding sports company to write the Official Handbook of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Middle Atlantic States, which chronicled the birth of organized sports among African Americans along the Eastern seaboard.
See Naismith Hall of Fame
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