Don Barksdale: Basketball Pioneer & Community Leader
Don was born in Oakland, California and attended nearby Berkeley High School. Berkeley High’s basketball coach, bowing to the racism of the era, cut Don from the team for three-straight years because he wanted no more than one black player on the team at a time. Barksdale honed his playing skills in park basketball and then played for two years for
As a 6'6" center at UCLA, he became the first African-American to be named a consensus All-American in 1947. After college, Don was unable to break the color barrier of the NBA because of an unwritten rule that prohibited minorities from playing. Instead, he played for an Oakland AAU team, The "Bittners", who were selected, along with the
In 1951, Don signed a two-year, $60,000 contract with the Baltimore Bullets making him one of the earliest African-Americans to join the NBA after Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Nathaniel Clifton ahd Hank DeZonie broke the color barrier in 1950. At the time he was one of the highest paid players in the league. Don was also the first black selected to play in an NBA All Star game in 1953. After two years with the Bullets he was traded from
Through Barksdale's basketball-playing years, he was also starting a career in radio broadcasting. In 1948, he became the first black radio disc jockey in the San Francisco Bay Area, started his own record label called Rhythm Records, and opened two nightclubs in
In February, Bounce: The Don Barksdale Story is scheduled to be broadcast on FSN Bay Area. The documentary was produced by Doug Harris for Athletes United for Peace, a Berkeley-based youth sports and media organization.
Edited by Scott Fletcher from websites at the University of West Virginia, Wikipedia and USA Basketball Inc.