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This article is about the late former pioneering African-American NBA basketball player. For the African-American actor, see Chuck Cooper .

Charles Henry Cooper ( born September 29, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker - died February 5, 1984 in Pittsburgh), better known as Chuck Cooper, was one of three players with legitimate claims to be the first African American basketball player in the NBA. Each satisfied a different condition of being "first":

  • Cooper was the first black player to be drafted by an NBA team, in 1950.
  • Shortly afterwards, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton was the first black player to sign a contract with an NBA team.
  • Finally, at the start of the 1950-51 season, Earl Lloyd was the first black to play in an NBA game, as his team started its season one day before Cooper's and four days before Clifton's.


Cooper was signed by Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, after playing for the Westinghouse High School in Pittsburghmarker, and the NCAA teams at Duquesne Universitymarker and West Virginia State Collegemarker.

Cooper went on to have a fair NBA career. He played four years with the Celtics, then was traded to the Milwaukee Hawks before ending his career as a member of the Ft. Wayne Pistons. During his NBA career, Cooper played a total of 409 games, scoring 2,725 points for an average of 6.66 points per game, with 2431 rebounds for an average of 5.9 per game, and 733 assists for an average of 1.79 per game. As some statistics were not kept during that era, it is not known how many blocked shots, steals or turnovers he had during his career.

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