In a long-awaited move, basketball trailblazer and Duquesne legend Chuck Cooper is getting properly recognized.
Cooper will be named into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, this according to ESPN’s Marc Spears.
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In 1950, Cooper — along with Nat Clifton and Earl Lloyd — became one of the first African-American players in the NBA. Cooper was also the first African-American player ever drafted into the NBA (Boston Celtics, 2nd round).
Cooper was born on September 29, 1926 in Pittsburgh and went on to attend Westinghouse High School. After high school, Cooper attended a semester at West Virginia State College (now University) before being drafted to serve in the United State Navy in the final stages of World War II.
Cooper began attending Duquesne in 1946, where he started all four years and became an All-American. Duquesne’s four-year record with Cooper was 78-19. The 1949-50 Duquesne team was the first in school history to be ranked all season, as they finished the year ranked No. 6 in the country.
While at Duquesne, Cooper was the first African-American to play in a college basketball game south of the Mason-Dixon line. The university later retired Cooper’s No. 15 jersey.
Cooper played for six years in the NBA, for the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Hawks and the Fort Wayne Pistons. In his pro career (409 games), Cooper averaged 6.6 points/game and 5.9 rebounds.
The Pittsburgh native spent the rest of his life back in his hometown and helped raise four children. Cooper died at the age of 57 of liver cancer.
The new Duquesne basketball venue, currently under construction, will be named the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in his honor.