As NCAA’s March Madness builds to the Final Four on April 4, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is counting down to its announcement that day welcoming new inductees.
Visiting the Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts, and reading the plaques yields some surprises. There, as expected, are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. But who are Robert L. Douglas, “Pop” Gates, and “Tarzan” Cooper? You expect to see the 1992 United States Olympic “Dream Team” and The Harlem Globetrotters, but who or what is the New York Renaissance? The answer showcases basketball and American sports at their best.
Douglas—dubbed “The Father of Black Basketball”—was the owner of the pre-NBA Black Professional League’s greatest team, and Gates and Cooper were among its brightest stars. From 1922 to 1949, the New York Renaissance—or, more commonly, just the New York Rens—barnstormed the country, crushing opponents with a blinding, infuriating passing game.
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