Charles Henry “Chuck” Cooper was an American professional basketball player. He and two others, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Earl Lloyd, became the first African-American players in the NBA in 1950. After downsizing to 11 teams prior to the 1950-51 season, the NBA began including black players. One of the first players to integrate was 6’5” Forward, Pittsburgh native from Duquesne University, Chuck Cooper. Cooper grew up in Homewood and graduated from Westinghouse High School in 1944. His senior year, he averaged 13 points and earned All-City honors.
Cooper was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was the son of Daniel and Emma Cooper. His father worked as a mailman and his mother was a school teacher.
After graduating high school, Cooper attended West Virginia State College where he played basketball for a semester before being drafted into the United States Navy to serve in World War II. After returning home from serving in the Navy, he enrolled at Duquesne University, where he became one of the first black All-Americans and led the Dukes to a 78-19 record and the NIT twice during his four years. Cooper became the first African American to participate in a college basketball game south of the Mason–Dixon line.
In 1950, Cooper was the first black player taken in the NBA Draft, after being chosen the 13th overall by the Boston Celtics. He would play for legendary coach Red Auerbach and Hall-of-Famer Bob Cousy for four seasons.
After his basketball career, Cooper graduated with a Masters in Social Work from the University of Minnesota. He was married twice, first in 1951, and then in 1957 to Irva Lee, with whom he had four children. Cooper died at the age of 57 on February 5, 1984.