Sports

Beginnings of Basketball: The "Black Fives"

EB Henderson

The all-black basketball teams that competed in the USA before the National Basketball Association (NBA) became racially integrated were called the "Black Fives".

The all-black basketball teams that competed in the USA before the National Basketball Association (NBA) became racially integrated were called the "Black Fives".

E.B. Henderson introduced basketball to the black community for the first time on a large-scale organized basis in 1904. The "Black Fives Era" ensued, until 1950, when the NBA was finally integrated. A Black Fives basketball team, the New York Renaissance (or Harlem "Rens"), drove that historical integration.

From 1923 to 1948, the Rens won 83 percent of their games. Considered the most successful basketball team of the century, among white and black teams, the Rens smashed the color barrier in pro basketball, and helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement.

The Black Fives were also refereed to as colored quints, colored fives, and negro fives.

Several Black Fives emerged during the Black Fives Era, in New York City, Washington, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. They were sponsored by or affiliated with churches, athletic clubs, social clubs, businesses, newspapers, and YMCA branches.

Claude Johnson, founder and owner of Black Fives, Inc. coined the terms "Black Fives" and "Black Fives Era" when promoting the period's history.

This information comes from Johnson's Black Fives Foundation.

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