Chuck Cooper (September 29, 1926 - February 5, 1984), 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 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 a day before either Cooper's or Clifton's. Cooper was signed by Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, after playing for the Westinghouse high school in Pittsburgh, and the NCAA teams at Duquesne University and West Virginia State College.
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. 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. He did not take any three point shots; three point shots were not instituted in the NBA until about 20 years after Cooper stopped playing.
As the NBA progressed, other Black players, such as Oscar Robertson, Dave Bing, Darryl Dawkins, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller and, more recently, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson, among others, have dazzled crowds, making many fans forget about Cooper, Clifton and Lloyd. Miller, however, said in a 1990 interview that he recognized their names and their indirect importance in the careers of modern Black basketball players.
During his NBA career, Cooper played a total of 409 games, scoring 2,725 points for a total of 6.5 points per game, with 2,439 rebounds for a total of 5.9 per game.