Home /    All Stories /    Breaking Down Barriers


Breaking Down
Barriers

Introducing a new NBA Hardwood Classics collection that shines a spotlight on the first three African American basketball players to break the color barrier.

White Background

Jan 23, 2020

In 1950, Nat Clifton, Chuck Cooper, and Earl Lloyd broke down the NBA's color barrier and made the first moves to integrate the league. 70 years later, the Breaking Down Barriers collection celebrates the progressive spark Clifton, Cooper, and Lloyd brought to the NBA and beyond.

NAT
CLIFTON

Clifton was the first African American player to sign an NBA contract with the New York Knickerbockers. He helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals during his rookie year, and in 1957, at age 34, was named an NBA All Star. His final NBA season, 1957-58, was played in Detroit.

Converse Breaking Down Barriers Collection

"Knicks" Pro Leather

CHUCK
COOPER

On April 25, 1950, Charles “Chuck” Cooper broke the NBA’s color barrier when the Boston Celtics selected him with the 13 overall pick of the NBA draft. He played four years in Boston and finished his professional career in 1956 with the Fort Wayne Pistons, helping the team win the Western Division and advance to the NBA Finals.

Converse Breaking Down Barriers Collection - Chuck Cooper

"Celtics" Pro Leather

EARL
LLOYD

Lloyd became the first African American to play in the NBA, suiting up for the short-lived Washington Capitols. His career spanned three franchises, highlighted by an NBA title run with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, and finished off with the Detroit Pistons.

Converse Breaking Down Barriers Collection - Earl Lloyd

"Capitols" Chuck 70

A Collection Rooted
in Sport History

The Breaking Down Barriers collection honors the legacy of these three players, introducing limited colorways of the Converse Pro Leather and the Chuck 70—the first performance hoops shoe—in tribute to the teams that helped move the game forward: The New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Washington Capitols, and the Detroit Pistons.

OFF COURT
IMPACT

Converse Breaking Barriers Collection

While Clifton, Cooper, and Lloyd's
accomplishments on the court are undeniable,
their post-game achievements continued to
break down barriers—this time in their
communities.

 

Clifton remains tied to the New York Knicks
community. Today, the Sweetwater Clifton “City
Spirit” Award pays tribute to New York heroes
who have made a significant difference to the
lives of others.

Cooper, who later earned a Master of Social Work degree, broke down even more color barriers in his hometown of Pittsburgh, becoming the first ever African American director in the city’s government history and later pushing affirmative action at the Pittsburgh National Bank (the predecessor of PNC) as an urban affairs officer.

Meanwhile, Lloyd's attention shifted from playing and coaching to mentoring underprivileged children and assisting with job training skills.

Clifton, Cooper, and Lloyd never stopped breaking barriers. From the court to their individual communities, each of them built a legacy—rooted in progress—that continues to be a source of inspiration.


Breaking Down
Barriers

Introducing a new NBA Hardwood Classics collection that shines a spotlight on the first three African American basketball players to break the color barrier.

Jan 23, 2020

Jan 23, 2020

In 1950, Nat Clifton, Chuck Cooper, and Earl Lloyd broke down the NBA's color barrier and made the first moves to integrate the league. 70 years later, the Breaking Down Barriers collection celebrates the progressive spark Clifton, Cooper, and Lloyd brought to the NBA and beyond.

Clifton was the first African American player to sign an NBA contract with the New York Knickerbockers. He helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals during his rookie year, and in 1957, at age 34, was named an NBA All Star. His final NBA season, 1957-58, was played in Detroit.

On April 25, 1950, Charles “Chuck” Cooper broke the NBA’s color barrier when the Boston Celtics selected him with the 13 overall pick of the NBA draft. He played four years in Boston and finished his professional career in 1956 with the Fort Wayne Pistons, helping the team win the Western Division and advance to the NBA Finals.

Lloyd became the first African American to play in the NBA, suiting up for the short-lived Washington Capitols. His career spanned three franchises, highlighted by an NBA title run with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, and finished off with the Detroit Pistons.

A Collection Rooted in Sport History

The Breaking Down Barriers collection honors the legacy of these three players, introducing limited colorways of the Converse Pro Leather and the Chuck 70—the first performance hoops shoe—in tribute to the teams that helped move the game forward: The New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Washington Capitols, and the Detroit Pistons.

OFF COURT
IMPACT

While Clifton, Cooper, and Lloyd's accomplishments on the court are undeniable, their post-game achievements continued to break down barriers—this time in their communities.

Clifton remains tied to the New York Knicks community. Today, the Sweetwater Clifton “City Spirit” Award pays tribute to New York heroes who have made a significant difference to the lives of others.

Cooper, who later earned a Master of Social Work degree, broke down even more color barriers in his hometown of Pittsburgh, becoming the first ever African American director in the city’s government history and later pushing affirmative action at the Pittsburgh National Bank (the predecessor of PNC) as an urban affairs officer.

Meanwhile, Lloyd's attention shifted from playing and coaching to mentoring underprivileged children and assisting with job training skills.

Clifton, Cooper, and Lloyd never stopped breaking barriers. From the court to their individual communities, each of them built a legacy—rooted in progress—that continues to be a source of inspiration.

Fast, Free Shipping

Orders over $50 ship for free. Or sign up for a Converse.com account and get free shipping on every order.

Worry-Free Returns

Not happy? Return or exchange your purchase for free within 30 days.

Converse Gift Cards

Give them exactly what they want with a Converse Gift Card.

Follow Us

Keep up with the latest Converse news on our social channels.