Photo credits: NCC University Athletics
Black American superstar NBA ballplayers sign high-dollar contracts nowadays. However, when they sign their names on the dotted line, these name-brand athletes are blazing a trail pioneered by a man who in all likelihood, is a mystery to many of them.
Harold Hunter (pictured), a former guard for North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central), was the first African-American to sign an NBA contract. He was also the first African-American to coach the USA basketball team in the Olympics. Hunter was a standout guard at North Central Community College. Under head coach John McLendon, he led the Eagles to the 1950 Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (now the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association-CIAA) Tournament title.
Hunter became the first African-American player to sign an NBA contract on April 26, 1950. He was signed by the Washington D.C. Capitols (now known as the Washington Wizards). Hunter, on the other hand, was cut during training camp and never played a regular-season game in the NBA. Nevertheless, at that time, all was not lost for Hunter. This brilliant basketball mind would be put to legendary use elsewhere in his sport’s spacious stratosphere.
After being cut by the Capitols, Hunter went on to become the first African-American to coach the U.S. Olympic Team in 1968. It is also worth noting that Team USA’s basketball team beat the Soviet Union for the Olympic gold that same year.
According to Hoopedia and NBA.com, Hunter also sent 17 players to the NBA as the head basketball coach of the Tennessee State University Tigers. In New Orleans, Louisiana, he additionally coached the women’s and men’s basketball teams at Xavier, Dillard, and Southern universities. Hunter was named into the North Carolina Central University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.
During NCCU’s Centennial celebration in December 2009, he also earned a Trailblazer Award from the Department of Athletics.