Lean’tin L. Bracks
Despite the prejudices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, African Americans have excelled in various sports. In addition to accomplishing a multitude of athletic feats, many of the exploits of African American athletes have helped to spur societal changes. The integration of baseball in 1947 by Jackie Robinson and the legacy of heavyweight champion Joe Louis helped to launch the Civil Rights movement. Additionally, the rise in black nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s was projected by the words and deeds of African American athletes, such as Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, and Curt Flood.
Professional and some amateur sports have also given African Americans the opportunity for instant fame and wealth afforded by few other venues. For some, success on the athletic field carries over into the private sector, as many African American athletes have used their wealth and clout to start businesses and give back to the community. As the twenty-first century begins, however, a major obstacle exists—few African Americans have been given employment in front office positions or been granted ownership of professional sports teams.
Professional baseball began in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1846. The game was dominated by amateurs and roving semi-professionals until the National League was formed in 1876. Initially, there was no prohibition against African Americans playing in the National League or its rivals—the American Association, the Union League, and the Players League. Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first prominent African American professional baseball player during the 1880s for the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association. However, in an exhibition game with a National League team, the Chicago White Stockings, the “color line” was drawn in baseball for the first time. White Stockings player/manager Cap Anson refused to play on the same field with Walker. Later, when Anson heard an African American was about to be signed in the National League, he used his influence to initiate a “gentlemen’s agreement” among the teams not to sign any African American players. This agreement became the standard in organized baseball.
Efforts to sneak African Americans into the major leagues under the guise of being Cuban or American Indians failed. Until the 1920s, the only way for African Americans to play baseball was as semi-professionals touring and playing wherever they got the chance. As the 1920s dawned, an organized, professional Negro League was established by Rube Foster and others to give African Americans the chance to play big league baseball. The Negro League featured teams such as the Detroit Stars, Homestead Grays, New York Elite Giants, and others that played wherever they could find a stadium and funding. They frequently filled Major League Baseball stadiums when given the chance and the quality of their product was evidenced by such Hall of Fame players as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge, “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard, and Judy Johnson.
The Negro League was never financially stable, however, and teams frequently folded. Many chose to—or felt their best option was to—play for pay in Cuba or the Dominican Republic. Despite efforts by Major League Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to stop them, many exhibition games were arranged between Negro League and Major League All-Star teams. The exhibitions were competitive and the Negro League players demonstrated their skill by winning many of the contests. As long as Landis was commissioner of Major League Baseball, however, integration was impossible.
In 1945, following the death of Landis and the appointment of Happy Chandler as commissioner, Brooklyn Dodger general manager and part-owner Branch Rickey began a search for an African American to integrate Major League Baseball. He settled on UCLA alumnus Jackie Robinson. In 1946, Robinson played for the Dodgers top minor league team in Montreal. In 1947, he integrated baseball despite virulent opposition from players, teammates, and all of the other Major League Baseball owners. Robinson was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1947 and won the Most Valuable Player award in 1949. The Cleveland Indians integrated the American League in 1947 with Larry Doby.
By 1958, all Major League Baseball teams had integrated their rosters and African American players became stars in both leagues. In 1975, Frank Robinson became the first African American manager of a Major League Baseball team with the Cleveland Indians. However, baseball’s front office positions remained closed to African Americans as the game features few African American managers or general managers. The power structure changed slightly in the 1988 when former player Bill White became the first African American to be president of the National League. White was succeeded in 1994 by another African American, Leonard Coleman.
In addition, many of baseball’s top stars have been African American. Hank Aaron became baseball’s all-time home run leader and drove in more runs than anyone in history. Rickey Henderson holds the record for most steals, and Lee Smith has more saves than any other player. Additionally, African American players have been the recipients of the Most Valuable Player Award in the American or National League over 35 percent of the time during the last half century.
Curt Flood also changed the face of baseball. In 1969, Flood decided to challenge his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies on the grounds that baseball’s reserve clause—binding players to their existing teams—was in violation of federal antitrust laws. A lawsuit brought by Flood was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Flood and decided that baseball could retain its posture as the only professional sport exempted from federal antitrust legislation. Shortly after the decision, an agreement between the players and management ended the reserve system and established free agency.
The percentage of African American players in Major League Baseball has declined since its peak in the 1970s. One factor responsible for this change is the streamlining of inner city baseball programs and urban little leagues due to financial problems. The economic situation has become so bad in some American cities that even scholastic athletic programs are threatened with cutbacks or dissolution. Nevertheless, many of the game’s top players are African American, including Barry Bonds, Mike Cameron, Cliff Floyd, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, and Gary Sheffield.
In 1997—the 50th anniversary of the the game being racially integrated—Major League Baseball took action to honor Jackie Robinson’s feat. Commissioner Bud Selig retired his number 42 from use by any baseball team. President Bill Clinton offered remarks on Robinson’s legacy at a ceremony in New York’s Shea Stadium. Also that summer, Robinson’s widow, Rachel, took part in a ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame dedicating a wing to African Americans.
NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
1962: Jackie Robinson
1969: Roy Campanella
1971: Leroy R. “Satchel” Paige
1972: Josh Gibson; Walter “Buck” Leonard
1973: Roberto W. Clemente; Monte Irvin
1974: James T. “Cool Papa” Bell
1975: William “Judy” Johnson
1976: Oscar M. Charleston
1977: Ernest Banks; Martin Dihigo; John H. Lloyd
1979: Willie Mays
1981: Andrew “Rube” Foster; Robert T. Gibson
1982: Hank Aaron; Frank Robinson
1983: Juan A. Marichal
1985: Lou Brock
1986: Willie L. “Stretch” McCovey
1987: Ray Dandridge; Billy Williams
1988: Willie Stargell
1990: Joe Morgan
1991: Rod Carew; Ferguson Jenkins
1993: Reggie Jackson
1995: Leon Day
1996: Bill Foster
1997: Willie Wells
1998: Larry Doby
1999: Orlando Cepeda; Joe Williams
2000: Tony Pérez; Norman “Turkey” Stearnes
2002: Ozzie Smith
2003: Eddie Murray
2006: Negro League Players: Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Biz Mackey, Mule Suttles, Cristo’bal Torriente, Jud Wilson; Pre-Negro League Players: Frank Grant; Pete Hill; Jose’ Men’dez, Louis Santop, Ben Taylor; Negro League Executives: Effa Manley (first woman), Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, J.J. Wilkinson (white owner); Pre Negro League Executive: Sol White.
Unlike the other major American sports, professional football was integrated from its inception. Beginning in 1919 with Fritz Pollard of the Akron Indians of the American Professional Football League, African Americans participated in professional football. At the peak of hard times brought on by the Great Depression, however, white players complained that African Americans reduced the number of jobs available to them. Team owners then joined into an unwritten pact that African Americans would no longer be allowed to play professionally.
The NFL was bereft of African American players until the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode in 1946. Later that same year Cleveland Browns fullback Marion Motley not only became the first black player in the All-American Football League, but he also was the earliest African American pro football star. Motley led the AAFL in rushing, was instrumental in the Browns’ multiple AAFL championships, and continued to do the same when the team was absorbed by the NFL. Syracuse University’s Jim Brown began his career with the Browns shortly after the retirement of Motley and became the top running back in the league. Brown led the league in rushing for eight of his nine years and held the career yardage mark for 19 years after his retirement.
By the end of Brown’s career in the mid-1960s, other African American stars had emerged. New York Giants safety Emlen Tunnel—the first black player for the Giants since re-integration—retired in 1961 with 79 career interceptions, a record that was not eclipsed until 1979. With 14 touchdowns in 1965, rookie Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers immediately gained notoriety as one of the most exciting running backs of the era. Sayers went on to lead the league in rushing in
1966 and 1969 and became the youngest man ever elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1977. Blacks excelled at every position except quarterback, which remained unofficially reserved for white players.
African American stars continued to proliferate in the 1960s and 1970s. Charley Taylor was the first African American to lead the league in receptions twice. Willie Wood was the first to lead the NFL in interceptions. In 1973, the Buffalo Bills’ O. J. Simpson became the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. Only three players have managed that feat since, all of them African American, but all of them in 16 games as opposed to the 14 played by Simpson: Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards in 1984; Barry Sanders’s 2,053 in 1997; and Terrell Davis’s 2,008 in 1998. The visibility of African Americans in the NFL was demonstrated with the popularity of certain teams’ defensive lines and their familiar nicknames. The Minnesota Vikings offered the “Purple People Eaters,” including Carl Eller, future state supreme court justice Alan Page, and Jim Marshall. David “Deacon” Jones and Rosey Grier were mainstays on the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome.” The great Pittsburgh Steelers defenses of the 1970s were known as the “Steel Curtain” and included “Mean” Joe Greene.
record for career rushing yards and concluded his brilliant career in 1987 with 16,726 yards, more than 1,000 yards ahead of the second most as of the end of the 2002 season. In 1988, the Washington Redskins’ Doug Williams became the first African American to quarterback his team to a Super Bowl victory. The 1990s have been dominated by three running backs who have won Most Valuable Player Awards: the now-retired Detroit Lions’ Barry Sanders, the Dallas Cowboys’ Emmitt Smith, and the Denver Broncos’ Terrell Davis. The San Francisco 49ers’ wide receiver Jerry Rice holds the record of most touchdowns scored in league history. The Cowboys’ now-retired but still flamboyant cornerback Deion Sanders became one of the game’s most visible and dominant defensive players, also notably dangerous as a kick and punt returner.
In the late 1990s, African Americans represented approximately 70 percent of those playing in the NFL. The proportion of African Americans in the coaching ranks and team front offices, however, has not grown at the same pace. African Americans made up less than 20 percent of the head coaches in the league and held none of the upper-level management positions.
This is a similar problem in college football, as most coaching jobs are still held by whites. The major avenue for African Americans in coaching—and at one time in playing—was through historically African American colleges. Grambling’s former head coach Eddie Robinson produced several NFL stars as did other predominantly African American colleges. The integration of major Southern universities, however, has weakened the influence of African American colleges.
PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
1967: Emlen Tunnell
1968: Marion Motley
1969: Fletcher “Joe” Perry
1971: Jim Brown
1972: Ollie Matson
1973: Jim Parker
1974: Richard “Night Train” Lane
1975: Roosevelt Brown; Leonard “Lenny” Moore
1976: Leonard “Len” Ford
1977: Gale Sayers; Bill Willis
1980: Herb Adderley; David “Deacon” Jones
1981: Willie Davis
1983: Bobby Bell; Bobby Mitchell; Paul Warfield
1984: Willie Brown; Charley Taylor
1985: O. J. Simpson
1986: Ken Houston; Willie Lanier
1988: Alan Page
1989: Mel Blount; Art Shell; Willie Wood
1990: Junious “Buck” Buchanan; Franco Harris
1991: Earl Campbell
1992: Lem Barney; John Mackey
1993: Larry Little; Walter Payton
1994: Tony Dorsett; Leroy Kelly
1995: Lee Roy Selmon
1996: Charlie Joiner; Mel Renfro
1997: Mike Haynes
1998: Mike Singletary; Dwight Stephenson
2000: Ronnie Lott
2001: Jackie Slater; Lynn Swann
2002: Dan Hampton; John Stallworth
2003: Marcus Allen; Elvin Bethea; James Lofton
2004: Bob (Boomer) Brown; Carl Eller; Barry Sanders
2005: Fritz Pollard
African American athletes have been boxing professionally since colonial times and have dominated the sport—especially in the heavyweight division—since the 1930s. In 1886 George “Little Chocolate” Dixon became the first African American to win a world boxing title. In 1908, Jack Johnson became the first to win the heavyweight title. Joe Walcott—not to be confused with “Jersey” Joe Walcott, a heavyweight contemporary of Joe Louis—lost his only shot at the world lightweight championship in 1897, lost his first bout for the world welterweight championship the next year, but captured the welterweight title in 1901. Throughout Walcott’s tumultuous career, he fought in handicap events where he was required to weigh much less than his opponent—and much less than his normal body weight. Walcott also fought light-heavyweights and heavyweights with unbelievable success. Because of this, he was called the greatest welterweight and greatest “pound for pound” fighter of all time by many boxing experts. Middleweight champion “Sugar” Ray Robinson and light-heavyweight Roy Jones Jr. are also mentioned in such discussions. Joe Louis held the world heavyweight title for a record 11 years and 8 months in the 1930s and 1940s. Henry Armstrong held three world titles at once—featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight—during the Great Depression.
Louis, Robinson, and Armstrong were stars in what is considered the first golden age of African Americans in boxing. A new golden age was ushered in on March 8, 1971, when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier drew the sport’s first multimillion-dollar gate. Ali, a national figure since winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960, was also one of the first athletes to comment on American political and social events despite the danger such a stance could pose to his career.
Other divisions have featured African American stars. During the 1970s and 1980s attention shifted to talented fighters in the middle and welterweight divisions including “Sugar” Ray Leonard, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns. When Ali was no longer able to defend his heavyweight crown, new challengers such as his former sparring partner Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks ascended to the championship ranks.
As purses for major boxing events reached the $100 million mark in the mid-1980s, a new generation of fighters arose. “Iron” Mike Tyson became the best known heavyweight champion since Ali and the wealthiest boxer of all time. His tumultuous reign was ended in Japan with a knockout by James “Buster” Douglas, who in turn lost the title to Evander Holyfield. Even without a title to his name, Tyson continued to be the most visible figure in boxing. In 1992, he was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to jail. While incarcerated he made headlines for his conversion to Islam and his admissions of youthful indiscressions. After his release, he quickly regained his title until Holyfield won it from him in 1996. In a 1997 rematch, Tyson bit Holyfield twice during the early rounds, prompting Tyson’s disqualification and suspension from boxing. Despite the lifting of that suspension, legal troubles and prison time have clouded the career of boxing’s most famous figure.
Other stars, including Pernell Whitaker and Roy Jones Jr., have shone brightly in recent years, but none have held the attention of the public like Mike Tyson. Many experts see the lack of a popular heavyweight champion as a sign of the death of the sport of boxing.
Top boxers can conceivably earn as much as $100 million for less than a dozen major ring events. The advent of pay-per-view television and cable network sponsorship has lead to soaring profits for the sport and its practitioners, although declining ratings and public interest threaten this trend. Colorful entrepreneur Don King is the most famous, wealthy, and controversial boxing promoter of the modern era. His powerful position in boxing’s ranks and his hold on Tyson have allowed him to control championship boxing, despite frequent troubles with the Internal Revenue Service and complaints from former fighters who worked under King.
African American presence in basketball dates to the early days of the sport. College basketball dominated the first half of the twentieth century as no major professional league existed until the late 1940s. In 1916, educators, coaches, and faculty members from Hampton Institute, Shaw, Lincoln, Virginia Union, and Howard University formed the Central Interscholastic Athletic Association, the first African American collegiate conference. Others soon followed, including the Southeastern Athletic Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference, and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Much of the legacy of African American basketball history lies in its pioneers. Bob Douglas, who founded the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, is considered the “Godfather of black basketball.” His innovations included monthly player contracts, a custom designed team bus, and tours in the South. John McLendon, a coach during the 1950s and 1960s, is recognized as the strategic architect of the fast break and was the first African American to publish a book detailing his coaching philosophy. He was also the first to coach a professional team. Additionally, McLendon was a prominent advocate of the desegregation of intercollegiate athletics.
For years most top college African American players signed with the Harlem Globetrotters, an internationally known barnstorming team. From their inception in 1926, the Globetrotters have delighted basketball fans worldwide with their unique combination of skill and humor. Famous Globetrotters include “Meadowlark” Lemon, “Curly” Neal, “Goose” Tatum, and Marques Haynes.
Professional basketball organized in the late 1940s as the National Basketball Association and was integrated in 1950. In the same year Chuck Cooper of Duquesne University was the first African American to be drafted in the league. Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton was the first signed to a professional contract. However, on October 31, 1950, when Earl Lloyd of the then Washington Capitols took the court, he became the first African American to actually participate in an NBA game.
Basketball grew in the 1950s and 1960s as African American players such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Oscar Robertson enjoyed success in both college and then as professionals. In 1966, Texas Western University became the first college team to win the NCAA National Championship with an all-African American starting five. They beat the favored and all-white University of Kentucky, a milestone that began the end of segregated basketball teams.
The late 1960s and 1970s featured the rise of two of the great stars of the game—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving. Abdul-Jabbar starred at UCLA and led the Bruins to three straight NCAA crowns. He then became a professional star with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. Along with Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes, and others, African American players began to dominate the league. The rival American Basketball Association began the slam dunk competitions which dominate the NBA All-Star Weekend. Julius Erving became the most popular player in the ABA due to his dunks and acrobatics.
The 1980s and 1990s featured the growth of basketball into one of the most popular sports in the United States and around the world. The huge success of the NCAA Final Four has led to large financial revenues for colleges. In 1982, John Thompson of Georgetown University became the first African American to coach in the Final Four. Two years later his team won the tournament. The talents of Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Alonzo Mourning, and others led to large growth of the college game and the NBA. These players became celebrities as well as athletes.
The most famous player of both decades is Michael Jordan. Considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan’s success and personality have made him one of the most famous people in the world. He led the University of North Carolina to an NCAA title in
1982 and led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles. His endorsements established Nike athletic shoes as one of the largest apparel companies in the world.
African Americans now occupy more than 80 percent of the spots on NBA rosters including such stars as Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, and Tim Duncan. Other areas, especially coaching and management positions, have less representation. The Atlanta Hawks’ Lenny Wilkens has won more games than any other coach in history, with more than 1,260 victories. Approximately 15 percent of top management and administrative positions are held by African Americans. In 1990, Bertram Lee and Peter C. B. Bynoe became the first African American owners of a professional sports franchise with the purchase of the Denver Nuggets.
Recent incidents involving high-profile players have dented the popularity and rapid growth of professional basketball. In 1997, Latrell Sprewell, an All-Star player, attempted to strangle his coach, P.J. Carlesimo, at a practice. Following a league suspension, Sprewell returned to the NBA as a player for the New York Knicks. Sprewell’s return was delayed along with the NBA season by a labor dispute which resulted in a lock out by NBA owners that did not end until early January 1999, resulting in a shortened season. In February 2002, retired NBA star Jayson Williams was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a limousine driver. Months later, Allen Iverson, a league MVP, as well as one of its most visible and talented players, was arraigned on charges that he had threatened two men while armed with a gun.
NATIONAL BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME
1971: Robert L. Douglass (contributor)
1974: Bill Russell
1976: Elgin Baylor; Charles Cooper
1978: Wilt Chamberlain
1979: Oscar Robertson
1981: Clarence Gaines; Willis Reed
1983: Sam Jones
1984: Nate Thurmond
1987: Walt “Clyde” Frazier
1988: Wes Unseld
1989: William “Pop” Gates; K.C. Jones; Lenny Wilkins (player)
1990: Dave Bing; Elvin Hayes; Earl “The Pearl” Monroe
1991: Nate “Tiny” Archibald
1992: Lusia Harris-Stewart; Connie Hawkins; Bob Lanier
1993: Walt Bellamy; Julius “Dr. J” Erving; Calvin Murphy
1996: George Gervin; David Thompson
1997: Alex English
1998: Marques Haynes, Lenny Wilkins (re-honored as a coach)
1999: Wayne Embry, John Thompson (coach)
2000: Bob McAdoo; Isiah Thomas
2001: John Chaney (coach); Moses Malone
2002: Earvin “Magic” Johnson; the Harlem Globetrotters
2003: Meadowlark Lemon; Earl Lloyd; Robert Parrish; James Worthy
African American athletes have excelled in track and field, winning medals at various Olympiads and other competitions. This tradition began at the 1908 London Olympics, when John Baxtor Taylor became the first African American to capture a gold medal as part of the 4x400-meter relay team.
Jesse Owens was the star of the first half of the twentieth century. Owens is best known for his four gold medal performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. However, it was on May 25, 1935, at Ann Arbor, Michigan, that Jesse Owens provided the greatest performance in track and field history at the Big Ten Championships as a member of Ohio State University. Owens began this day by equalling the world record in the 100-yard dash. He then proceeded to set the world records in the broad jump, 220-yard dash, and 220-yard low hurdles.
Owens began a string of medal-winning performances by African Americans in track and field. At the 1960 Olympics, Ralph Boston broke Owens’s long jump record to win the gold medal. In so doing, he also became one of only two track stars to break a world record on six separate occasions. Rafer Johnson won the decathlon in the same Olympics. Bob Beamon, at the 1968 Mexico City Games, leaped 29′ 2 1/2″ in the long jump competition to win the gold medal and extend the world record by almost two feet. Beamon’s record sat unbeaten and presumed out of reach for a quarter of a century, until Mike Powell bested it by 2″ at the 1991 World Track & Field Championships in Tokyo. In 1984, in Los Angeles, Carl Lewis became the first athlete since Owens in 1936 to win four gold medals. Edwin Moses became the greatest 400-meter hurdler in history, winning gold medals in 1976 and 1984 as well as winning 122 straight races. At the 1992 Olympic Games, Michael Johnson became the next African American star, winning the 400-meter dash. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Johnson became the first man to win the 200-meter and 400-meter races in the same games.
One of the most controversial events in Olympic history occurred in 1968 during an awards ceremony. After finishing first and third respectively, in the 200-meter dash, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, while on the victory stand, raised their arms in unison with black gloves on their clenched fists. This became known as the “Black power salute.” Their protest caused them to lose their medals.
Historically, African American Olympic athletes have not fared well at the Winter Games. Debi Thomas was the first to win a medal of any kind—bronze—in 1988 in figure skating. Not until the 2002 Olympiad did another black American ascend the podium for a medal. Jarome Iginla won a gold medal with the Canadian men’s ice hockey team. More notably, however, Vonetta Flowers won gold with her white teammate for their 2-woman bobsled performance. Similarly, half of the U.S. 4-man bobsled team was African American: Garrett Hines and Randy Jones captured silver medals to become the first African American men to place at a Winter Olympiad.
The professional tennis community was largely devoid of African Americans through World War II, as they were not welcome by the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA). In a sport primarily associated with the upper class, the only avenues of competition open for African Americans were universities and colleges, clubs and various minor tournaments. Shortly after the war, the USLTA loosened its discrimination policy and, in 1948, Oscar Johnson became the first African American player to win a USLTA-sanctioned event.
Arthur Ashe, a classy and congenial champion, won the Australian Open in 1970 and the Wimbledon title in 1975, along with several less celebrated tournaments during his career. He represented the United States as a member of the Davis Cup team ten times and was its captain from 1981 to 1984. Ashe also made contributions off the court. He made significant contributions as a human rights activist and retained a dignity and grace during his battle with AIDS. In 1996 MaliVai Washington became the first African American since Ashe to reach the Wimbledon finals.
African Americans’ attempts to break into golf prior to World War II paralleled those of their tennis counterparts. However, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) did not rescind its white-only policy until 1959, when Charlie Sifford became the first African American to be issued a PGA card as an “approved player.” In 1967 Renee Powell became the first African American female to be issued a LPGA card. Sifford was the best known of the initial participants on the tour. He was the first to win a predominantly white event with his victory at the 1957 Long Beach Open. In 1975 Lee Elder became the first African American to compete at the Masters tournament. In the 1980s Calvin Peete enjoyed success on the tour and competed in the 1983 Ryder Cup.
However, not until the arrival of Tiger Woods in the mid-1990s did an African American golfer become a superstar. Woods was a child prodigy, winning several junior tournaments before he was a teenager. In 1994 Woods became the first African American to win the U.S. Amateur title. He repeated this feat the next two years, becoming the first man to win the amateur title three years in a row. In 1997, after becoming a professional, Woods won the Masters tournament with a record score. He also rose to the ranking of the world’s top player. These accomplishments indicate the level of fame Woods has achieved. He has become the preeminent African American athlete with the retirement of Michael Jordan and has several endorsement deals.
African American luminaries exist in other sports. By winning the Brunswick Memorial World Open, George Branham III became the first African American bowler to win a Professional Bowling Association (PBA) title. Bran-ham has won four other titles, including the prestigious Firestone Tournament of Champions in 1993, which was the first time an African American had won one of bowling’s Triple Crown events. The weightlifter John Davis was the first athlete of any race to win eight consecutive World and Olympic Championships, during a career spanning three decades. Superlative bodybuilder Lee Haney reached the top of his field by winning eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles from 1984 to 1991. Picking up where Haney left off, Lenda Murray captured every Ms. Olympia title from 1990 through 1995. Following in their footsteps, Ronnie Coleman won the Mr. Olympia title in 1998 and retained it through the 2002 competition. At the turn of the nineteenth century, cyclist Marshall Taylor was among the three most celebrated African American athletes in the world. During the same era, jockey Isaac Murphy, viewed as the greatest in the world at his craft, was part of a triumphant half century of African American jockeys. Oliver Lewis won the inaugural Kentucky Derby aboard Aristedes, in 1875. However, until Marlon St. Julien rode to a seventh-place finish in the 2000 Derby, no African American had ridden in the Derby since 1911.
One sport on which African Americans have had a negligible influence is auto racing. Willie T. Ribbs is the only African American to drive at the Indianapolis 500 and has failed in his efforts to put together a successful NASCAR team. Julius Erving and former football star Joe Washington are the first African American owners of a NASCAR team but race with a white driver. Wendell Scott is the only African American to win a NASCAR race, with that win coming in the 1960s.
Although not provided with the same opportunities that have been traditionally afforded to men, African American women have made a significant contribution to the sports world. African American women are on the vanguard of the new opportunities, achieving success in sports as varied as tennis to basketball.
In 1948, Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to capture an Olympic gold medal in the high jump. Wilma Rudolph overcame debilitating childhood illnesses to win three golds at the 1960 Olympiad in Rome. Her teammate, 15-year-old Barbara Jones, became the youngest female to win a gold medal in track and field. In the 1968 games, Wyomia Tyus became the second African American to win more than one gold medal in one Olympiad as well as the first to set world records in two different events. In 1988, Debi Thomas became the first African American woman to win an Olympic medal in figure skating. Florence Griffith Joyner won four medals during the 1988 Olympiad, including three gold medals. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, owner of two Olympic gold medals, and Gail Devers, who overcame the effects of Graves’ disease to win a gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games, are recent stars.
The first female African American athlete to dominate her sport was tennis’s Althea Gibson. A superb athlete, Gibson was named 1957’s female athlete of the year during which she captured the prestigious Wimbledon singles title and U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championship. She won both titles again in 1958 and was the undisputed number one women’s player in the world during those years. She became the first African American woman to capture a Grand Slam event in 1956 with her singles and doubles championships at the French Open. Zina Garrison-Jackson was the next prominent female African American tennis player, eventually reaching a top-ten ranking, and becoming a 1990 Wimbledon finalist.
In the late 1990s the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, entered the international tennis scene, bringing new attention to the sport among African Americans. Serena, the youngest, became the first of the sisters to win a Grand Slam title, taking the U.S. Open in 1999. Venus followed with back-to-back victories at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 2000 and 2001. The sisters have gone on to dominate the sport. In 2002, they became the two highest ranked players on the tour.
Basketball has been a major outlet for African American female athletes. Cheryl Miller is one of the most famous female basketball players. She was named All-American at the conclusion of each of her four years at the University of Southern California, was national player of the year three times, and was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994. The decade of the 1970s featured the great center Lusia Harris, the first woman to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Others who have left their marks in basketball annals include University of Kansas star Lynette Woodard, perhaps best known as the first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1985.
In 1997 two professional basketball leagues for women were established. The WNBA, supported by the men’s NBA, and the ABL. Both leagues allowed stars such as Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, and Chamique Holdsclaw the chance to exhibit their skills beyond the college level. The ABL folded before it could launch its third season, but the WNBA continued on with much success. The league, which was originally comprised of eight teams, had expanded to 16 by 2000.
Other notables in sports include the late volleyball player Flo Hyman; bodybuilder Lenda Murray, who won the Ms. Olympia title six times; Lyle (Toni) Stone who was the first African American woman to play professional baseball with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro
American League in 1953; and Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes. In 1978, Wendy Hilliard became the first African American member of the U.S. National Rhythmic Gymnastics Team.
Unfortunately, very few of the above mentioned women ever had the opportunity to display their talents on a professional level. Women’s athletics has long been hamstrung by the lack of non-amateur forums in which African American female athletes could participate. For many, the Olympic Games or intercollegiate athletics have been the final step of their careers.
Women’s athletics received a boost with the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972, which stipulated that any university receiving federal funds was obligated to provide an equal or proportionate number of scholarships for women. While the law provides opportunities to women, it has been criticized in its implementation as many universities have cut men’s programs to fund scholarships for women.
(To locate biographical profiles more readily, please consult the index at the back of the book.)
HANK AARON (1934– ) Baseball Player, Sports Executive
Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934. He played sandlot ball as a teenager and later played for a local team named the Black Bears. He first played professional baseball with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League.
In June of 1952, Aaron’s contract was purchased by the Boston Braves. The following season, playing for their minor league team in Jacksonville, his .362 average led the South Atlantic League. In 1954 he was promoted to the Braves, then based in Milwaukee.
Aaron enjoyed perhaps his finest season in 1957, when he was named Most Valuable Player and led his team to a world championship. He batted .322, with 44 homers, 132 RBIs, and 118 runs scored.
In 1974 Aaron became the all-time home run leader when he hit his 715th, breaking Babe Ruth’s mark of 714 home runs. He played his final two seasons in the American League with the Milwaukee Brewers, completing his career with a total of 755 home runs.
During his career, Aaron won a pair of batting titles and hit over .300 in 12 seasons. He won the home run and RBI crowns four times apiece, hit 40 or more homers eight times, and hit at least 20 home runs for 20 consecutive years, a National League record. In addition, he was named to 20 consecutive All-Star teams.
In January of 1982, Aaron was elected by the Baseball Writers Association to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His autobiography I Had a Hammer was published in 1990 and statues of Aaron grace the entrances of both Turner Field and Miller Park where the Braves and Brewers play. The Braves have also honoreed Aaron by changing the address of the stadium to Hank Aaron Drive. In 2002 Aaron was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
One of the first blacks to play in Major League Baseball, Aaron also served as vice president of player development for the Braves, and since 1989 he has served as vice president/assistant to the president for the Braves.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR (1947– ) Basketball Player
Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. on April 16, 1947, in New York City. In high school, at 7′1/2″ tall, he established a New York City career record of 2,067 points and 2,002 rebounds, leading Power Memorial High School to three straight championships. Power won 95 and lost only six games during his years with the team.
Abdul-Jabbar combined great height with catlike moves and a deft shooting touch to lead UCLA to three consecutive NCAA Championships. Twice, as a sophomore and a senior, he was chosen as the top collegiate player in the country. He finished his career at UCLA as the ninth all-time collegiate scorer, accumulating 2,325 points in 88 games. After leading UCLA to its third consecutive NCAA title, Abdul-Jabbar signed a contract with the Milwaukee Bucks for $1.4 million.
In his rookie season, 1969–1970, he led the Bucks, a recently established expansion club, to a second place finish in the Eastern Division. After being voted Rookie of the Year, he went on to win the scoring championships in 1971 and 1972. He won a world championship in 1971. In 1973, he finished second in scoring with a 30.2 point average, but became dissatisfied with life in Milwaukee. At the end of the 1974–1975 season he was traded to the L.A. Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar enjoyed a very successful career with the Lakers, leading the team to NBA championships in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.
Abdul-Jabbar converted to the Hanafi sect of Islam while in college, though he did not change his name until 1971. Greatly influenced by the life and struggles of Malcolm X, he believes that the Islamic religion is distinct from the nationalistic Black Muslims.
Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement after the 1988–1989 season, one year after the Lakers had won back-to-back World Championships. He was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Abdul-Jabbar has applied his experience and knowledge of the game to the areas of coaching and scouting. In 2000, he served as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, and in 2001 took a position as scout, consultant, and assistant coach for the Indianapolis Pacers. In 2005 Jabbar returned to the Lakers as special assistant to Phil Jackson.
MUHAMMAD ALI (1942– ) Boxer
Born Cassius Clay, in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942, Ali started boxing as a youth. After winning the 1960 Olympic gold medal as light-heavyweight, Clay turned pro. In 1963 he converted to Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. A year later, Ali won the world heavyweight championship by knocking out Sonny Liston.
After nine successful title defenses, Ali refused to serve in the armed forces during the Vietnam War. He maintained that it was contrary to his Muslim beliefs. Stripped of his title and banned from boxing in the United States, Ali was jailed, but he refused to back down and was finally cleared on a technicality by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970.
Coming back to the ring after a three and one-half year layoff, he was defeated by heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. In 1974 when neither held a title, Ali defeated Frazier to earn a shot at regaining the title.
Few fans gave Ali a chance against heavyweight champion George Foreman when they met in Zaire on October 30, 1974. A 4–1 underdog at ring time, Ali amazed the boxing world and knocked out his stronger, younger opponent. After regaining the crown, Ali defeated Frazier in their third fight in Manilla. Ali then lost his title to Leon Spinks in 1978, briefly regained it, and then retired.
In 1980 Ali came out of retirement to fight his former sparring partner, heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. He was defeated. After a 1981 loss to Trevor Berbick, he retired again.
Forced to fight when he was past his prime, Ali took tremendous beatings late in his career. In the 1980s, the former champion was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Despite the disease, Ali has maintained a public presence. This was most notably demonstrated in his being chosen to light the Olympic torch at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Ali continues to work for various causes including international hunger and poverty relief. In 2001, the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation awarded Ali with a Service to America Leadership Award, in part for his founding of the nonprofit Muhammad Ali Center. That year a biographical film of Ali’s life was released. Titled Ali, the film starred Will Smith, and both he and supporting actor Jon Voight (portraying Howard Cosell) earned Academy Award nominations for their performances.
Ali who is a devout Muslim continues to travel the world promoting humanitarian endeavors. On November 19,
2005, the $60 million non–profit Muhammad Ali Center officially opened in Louisville, Kentucky, which centers on issues of peace, social responsibility, respect and personal growth, as well as displaying Ali’s boxing memorabilia. Because of his work in the Civil Rights Movement and work with the United Nations, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the prestigious Otto Hahn peace medal in Gold from the United Nations.
HENRY ARMSTRONG (1912–1988) Boxer
The only boxer ever to hold three titles at the same time is Henry Armstrong, who accomplished this feat on August 17, 1938, when he added the lightweight championship to his featherweight and welterweight titles.
Armstrong was born on December 12, 1912, in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1929, while fighting under the name of Melody Jackson, he was knocked out in his professional debut in Pittsburgh. Two weeks later he won his first fight. For the next eight years he traveled from coast to coast, fighting until he was finally given a shot at the featherweight title on October 20, 1937. He won the title when he defeated Petey Sarron.
Less than a year later, on May 31, 1938, Armstrong picked up his second title with a decision over welterweight champion Barney Ross. Within three months he added the lightweight crown, winning a decision over Lou Ambers.
Armstrong was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1975 and died in 1988.
ARTHUR ASHE (1943–1993) Tennis Player, Television Commentator
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Ashe learned the game of tennis at the Richmond Racket Club, which had been
formed by local African American enthusiasts. Dr. R. W. Johnson, who had also served as an advisor and benefactor to Althea Gibson, sponsored Ashe’s tennis.
By 1958, Ashe reached the semifinals in the under-15 division of the National Junior Championships. In 1960 and 1961, he won the Junior Indoors Singles title. In 1961, Ashe entered UCLA on a tennis scholarship.
While still an amateur, Ashe won the United States Amateur Tennis Championship and the U.S. Open Tennis Championship and became the first African American ever named to a Davis Cup Team.
In 1979, at the age of 35, Ashe suffered a heart attack. Following quadruple bypass heart surgery, Ashe retired from active tennis. He began writing a nationally syndicated column and contributed monthly articles to Tennis Magazine. He wrote a tennis diary Portrait in Motion, his autobiography Off the Court, and the book Advantage Ashe.
In addition, he compiled the historical work A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete.
Ashe was named captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1981. He was a former president and active member of the board of directors of the Association of Tennis Professionals, and a co-founder of the National Junior Tennis League. Late in his career, he also served as a television sports commentator.
In April of 1992, Ashe announced that he had contracted AIDS as the result of a tainted blood transfusion received during heart bypass surgery. He died on February 6, 1993.
ERNIE BANKS (1931– ) Baseball Player
Born in Dallas, Banks was slightly built at 6′1″, 180 pounds, but his powerful wrists help him produce a career total of 512 home runs. His 44 homers and five grand slams in 1955 were single season records for shortstops. His best season was 1958, during which he led the National League in at-bats (617), home runs (47), runs batted in (129), and slugging percentage (.614). He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player after the 1958 and 1959 seasons.
Banks, who was moved to first base during the 1961 season and played in 717 consecutive games, may have the somewhat dubious distinction of being the greatest player to never play in a World Series, as his Chicago Cubs rarely produced winning ballclubs during his tenure.
Banks, along with second baseman Gene Baker, formed the majors’ first all-African American double play combination. He was the second African American to play for the Cubs, after Baker. Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and is also a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
After his playing career, Banks became a bank executive with Seaway National Bank. He remained visible in the community, becoming a board member of the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Metropolitan YMCA, and the Los Angeles Urban League.
ELGIN BAYLOR (1934– ) Basketball Player, Basketball Coach, Sports Executive
Born on September 16, 1934, in Washington, DC, Elgin Baylor first attracted attention while attending Spingarn High School. He became an All-American at Seattle University, leading the Chieftains to the Final Four in 1958. In 1959, Baylor made his professional debut with the Minneapolis Lakers, becoming the first rookie to be named Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game. He also was named to the All-League team and set a scoring record of 64 points in a single game.
After five years as a superstar, Baylor injured his knee during a 1965 playoff game against the Bullets and never played at the same level again. He totaled 23,149 points in his career, and his scoring average of 27.4 is the fourth highest in NBA history. His best year was 1961–1962, when he averaged 38.2 points a game. When he retired in 1968, Baylor had been an All-Pro nine times and had played in eight consecutive All-Star games.
Baylor was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976. He was head coach of the New Orleans Jazz in 1978–1979. Since 1986, Baylor has been executive vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers. In 2006 Baylor was selected as the NBA executive of the Year.
DAVE BING. SEEENTREPRENEURSHIP CHAPTER.
BARRY BONDS (1964– ) Baseball Player
Barry Bonds was born on July 24, 1964, in Riverside, California. He was exposed to baseball heavily during childhood. Bonds’s father, Bobby, and his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays, were Major League outfielders. Bonds played three sports in high school—baseball, basketball, and football. Although he was offered a contract to play with the San Francisco Giants upon graduation, he opted to attend college at Arizona State University.
After success at the collegiate level, Bonds was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates as the sixth selection in the 1985 baseball draft. He spent a brief time in the minor leagues before being called up by the National League club at the age of 21. During his rookie season, he led all first-year players in home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, and walks.
In 1990 Bonds earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors. He hit 32 home runs, stole 52 bases, batted in 114 runs, scored 104 runs, and earned his first of four consecutive Gold Gloves for defensive play during the year. With Bonds’s support the Pirates won the Eastern Division of the National League but ended up losing to the Cincinnati Reds in a postseason series.
The Pirates entered the playoffs during the next two seasons, but met with postseason frustration both years. The 1992 campaign was notable because Bonds earned his second MVP award. Regardless of his success during the regular season, however, Bonds was unable to contribute in the same fashion during the playoffs.
After the completion of the 1992 season, Bonds signed a lucrative deal with the San Francisco Giants. The contract provided him with $43.75 million over the course of six years, making him the highest paid player at the time. Although some critics doubted that any player was worth such a salary, Bonds quieted them by earning another MVP award on the strength of a season that featured 46 home runs and 123 RBIs. The Giants failed to make the playoffs, though, losing the honor to the Atlanta Braves on the last day of the season.
Although Bonds has continued to post strong numbers through the remainder of the 1990s, his team has made the playoffs only twice, in 1997 and 2000. Bonds’s continued success during the regular season is remarkable in light of the fact that opposing pitchers do not often offer him decent pitches. They would rather walk Bonds than risk giving up an extra base hit against him.
In 1998 Bonds became the first player with more than 400 home runs and 400 stolen bases in a career; at the beginning of the 2002 season, he needed only 16 stolen bases to gain lone membership in the “500/500 Club.” In the 2001 season Bonds amassed an amazing 73 home runs, three more than the previous record. Not only did many consider the record of 70 homers in a season unmatchable, but Bonds hit his 73 with limited at bats as most managers instructed their pitchers to intentionally walk him rather than face the prospect of giving up an extra-base hit. Also at the end of the 2001 season, he won his fourth MVP award, becoming the first player in MLB history to win the award more than three times. On August 12, 2002, he hit his 600th home run, making him only the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to do so.
Bonds broke two home run records in 2004. On April 12th Bonds hit his 660th home run, tying Willie Mays, and on September 17th he hit his 700th home run, becoming only the third person to achieve this level. In 2006 Bonds hit his 733 home run to tie the record, and on September 23rd he hit his 734th home run, capturing the League record previously held by Hank Aaron.
LOU BROCK (1939– ) Baseball Player, Baseball Coach, Business Executive
Born in El Dorado, Arkansas, Lou Brock is the second-highest base stealer in baseball history. He stole 938 bases during his 19-year career with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. In 1977, Brock collected his 893rd steal, eclipsing the mark that had been held by Ty Cobb for 49 years. In 1974, at the age of 35, Brock’s 114 steals broke Maury Wills’s single season record. Brock registered at least 50 steals in 12 consecutive seasons and at the time of his retirement was the only player to hold both the Major League single season and career record in any major statistical category.
In 1967, Brock led the league in at-bats, runs scored, and steals. The following season he set the pace in triples and steals, leading the Cardinals to pennants both seasons. With Brock, St. Louis also won World Championships in 1964 and 1967.
Brock went on to become a coach and business executive and was presented with the Jackie Robinson Award by Ebony magazine. He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1975. He was also the recipient of the B’nai B’rith Brotherhood Award and was voted Man of the Year by the St. Louis Jaycees. Brock was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.
JIM BROWN (1936– ) Football Player, Actor, Community Activist
James Nathaniel Brown was born February 17, 1936, on St. Simon Island, Georgia, but moved to Manhasset, Long Island, New York, when he was seven. While at Manhasset High School he became an outstanding competitor in baseball, football, track and field, basketball, and lacrosse and following graduation had a choice of 42 college scholarships, as well as professional offers from both the New York Yankees and the Boston Braves. Brown chose to attend Syracuse University. An All-American performer in both football and lacrosse, he turned down the opportunity to compete in the decathlon at the 1956 Olympic games because it would have conflicted with his football schedule. He also spurned a three-year $150,000 offer to become a professional fighter.
In 1957 Brown began his professional football career with the Cleveland Browns. In his rookie season, he led
the league in rushing, helped Cleveland to a division championship, and was unanimously named Rookie of the Year. Brown broke the single season and lifetime rushing and scoring records and was an All-League fullback. His records included most yards gained, lifetime (12,312), and most touchdowns, lifetime (106). He was voted Football Back of the Decade for 1950–1960.
Brown announced his retirement in the summer of 1966, deciding to devote his attention to his movie and business careers. He has made several films including Rio Conchos, The Dirty Dozen, and 100 Rifles. In addition to his film activities, he is president and founder of Amer-Ican and an outspoken activist in issues relating to African Americans and sports.
In 2002 film director Spike Lee produced the film Jim Brown: All American, which was a retrospective on Brown’s professional and personal lives.
ROY CAMPANELLA (1921–1993) Baseball Player
Roy Campanella was born on November 19, 1921, in Philadelphia, and began playing semi-professional baseball
at the age of 15 with the Bacharach Giants. In 1946, Campanella was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Over the next eight years, the Dodger catcher played with five National League pennant winners and one world championship team. He played on seven consecutive National League All-Star teams (1949 to 1955) and won three Most Valuable Player Awards (1951, 1953, and 1955).
In January 1958, Campanella’s career was ended by an automobile accident which left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. In 1969, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1975. Campanella died on June 26, 1993.
WILT CHAMBERLAIN (1936–1999) Basketball Player
Wilt Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia on August 21, 1936. By the time he entered high school, he was already 6′11″. When he graduated from high school, he had his choice of 77 major colleges, and 125 smaller schools. He chose Kansas University, but left after his junior year after being a two-time All-American and playing in the 1957 Final Four.
Before entering the NBA in 1959, Chamberlain played with the Harlem Globetrotters. Although dominating the sport statistically from his rookie season, Chamberlain was a member of only two championship teams, the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers and the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers. For his efforts in defeating the Knicks in the 1972 series, including playing the final game with both hands painfully injured, he was voted MVP. At the start of the 1974 season, he left the Lakers to become player-coach of the San Diego Conquistadors (ABA) for a reported $500,000 contract.
Wilt Chamberlain still holds most major records for a single game including most points (100); field goals made (36); free throws (28); and rebounds (55). His season records include: highest scoring average (50.4); highest field goal percentage (.727); and most rebounds per game (27.2).
Chamberlain was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and owned various businesses after leaving professional basketball. He was involved with various charitable groups and appeared in several motion pictures. In 1991, Chamberlain published his autobiography, View from Above. The book caused quite a controversy due to revelations about his sexual relations. Chamberlain died of a heart attack on October 12, 1999 in Los Angeles.
ALICE COACHMAN (1923– ) Track and Field Athlete
Born in Albany, Georgia, on November 9, 1923, Coachman made a name for herself when, as a seventh grader, she high jumped 5′4 1/2″, less than an inch from the world record. On August 7, 1948, Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She did it by setting a world record in the high jump. In college, she attended both the Tuskegee Institute (now University) and Albany State University where she won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Outdoor 50-meters title four times; 100-meters three times; and the high jump ten times. Coachman won the 50-meters twice and the high jump three times during AAU indoor meets. She was also an outstanding basketball player, earning All-American honors as a guard at Tuskegee.
Coachman’s ten consecutive victories, between 1939 and 1948, remains an AAU record. She is a member of eight different halls of fame including the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, the Tuskegee Hall of Fame, and the Georgia State Hall of Fame. A 2002 edition of Ebony magazine, named her as one of the ten greatest women athletes of all time and received recognition as one of America’s 100 greatest Olympic athletes at the 1996 Summer Games held in Atlanta, Georgia.
LEONARD S. COLEMAN JR. (1949– ) Former-National League of Professional Baseball Clubs President, State Government Official, Business Executive
Leonard Coleman Jr. was born in Newark, but he grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. At Montclair High School, Coleman played baseball and football. He was named allstate and all-American during his senior year. He continued playing baseball and football as an undergraduate at Princeton University, becoming the first African American to score a touchdown for that prestigious Ivy League school. As a sophomore, he joined two other African American players in a protest, charging the Princeton football program with violations of the university’s policy of equal opportunity for minorities. When the complaints drew national attention, Coleman and his two friends were dismissed from the team, but a panel charged with investigating the incident urged greater sensitivity toward minority students in the athletic program. Coleman attributes that experience to helping him develop a keen social consciousness.
After earning his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1971, Coleman moved on to Harvard University, where he pursued dual master’s degrees in public administration and education. In 1976, he accepted a position as a missionary to Africa for the Protestant Episcopal Church. All told he spent four years in Africa, serving in 17 different countries and cultivating a close friendship with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Returning to the United States in 1980, Coleman first served as president of the Greater Newark Urban Coalition. In 1982, he was appointed commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Energy. In 1986, Coleman was named commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. In 1988, he left the public sector for a job as an investment banker with Kidder, Peabody & Co. Eventually, he was named vice president of municipal finance.
In 1991, Coleman accepted his first position with Major League Baseball, as director of marketing development. In that position, he was credited with further encouraging the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (R.B.I.) initiative, aimed at keeping city teenagers active in baseball after they leave the Little Leagues. In 1994, Coleman was unanimously chosen to succeed Bill White as president of the National League.
During his tenure, he carried out his vision for professional baseball—less drug abuse among players including the discouragement of chewing tobacco; less fighting during games; and promotion of baseball as entertainment for the whole family. Coleman also acted as a crusader for the rights of African American baseball players, especially former Negro League participants and their spouses. In 1996, Coleman was named chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Coleman resigned from the position of National League president in 1999. He then took over as president of Newark Sports & Entertainment, Inc., and on November 15, 2001, was named director of Churchill Downs Incorporated.
CYNTHIA COOPER (1963– ) Basketball Player, Coach
Cynthia Cooper was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1963. She played college basketball at the University of Southern California. Her team at USC is one of the greatest in the history of women’s college basketball. It included Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller and won NCAA titles in 1983 and 1984.
Following college, Cooper spent many years playing professional basketball in Europe. In 1988 she was on the U.S. Olympic team that captured a gold medal at the Seoul Olympiad. She was also a member of the bronze medal team in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympiad.
With the formation of the Women’s National Basketball Association in 1997, Cooper had the chance to compete professionally in the United States. The 5′10” guard was a member of the Houston Comets. Cooper became one of the most prominent players in the league, winning the WNBA’s first two MVP awards. In addition, she led the Comets to four-straight league titles and was named the MVP of the four championship games in which she played.
Cooper retired as a player following the 2000 season. In January 2001, she was named the head coach of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, a post she held for less than two seasons, as she resigned in June 2002.
Cooper returned to the game for the 2003 season, but announced her final retirement in 2004. In May 2005 Cooper was selected as head coach of the women’s basketball team at Prairie View A & M University.
DOMINIQUE DAWES (1976– ) Gymnast, Actress
Dawes was born in Silver Springs, Maryland, in 1976. She is the first African American to excel in gymnastics, becoming only the second African American to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team for gymnastics in 1992. Dawes also holds a record for winning the most national championships since 1963 (15) of any athlete, male or female.
Dawes began competing in gymnastics at the age of five. In 1992 at the Barcelona Olympiad she was a member of the U.S. team awarded the bronze medal. At the U.S. National Championships in 1994, Dawes became the first African American to win the all-around title as best gymnast. In 1996 at the Atlanta Olympiad she won two individual bronze medals as well as being a member of the U.S. team awarded the gold medal. Dawes was also a member of the U.S. team at the 2000 Sydney Olympiad.
While attending the University of Maryland, Dawes also appeared as an analyst for televised gymnastic events, including coverage of the 2001 Goodwill Games for TNT. Her acting credits include a 1996 role in the Broadway musical Grease and an appearance on the Disney television series, The Jersey. Dawes received her Bach-ealors Degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2002. She currently serves as President of the Women’s Sports Federation.
LEE ELDER (1934– ) Golfer, Entrepreneur
Lee Elder was born in Washington, DC, on July 14, 1934. He first was involved with golf as a caddie at the age of 15. After his father’s death during World War II, Elder and his mother moved to Los Angeles, where he met the famed African American golfer Ted Rhodes. He was later drafted by the U.S. Army, where he sharpened his skills as captain of the golf team.
Following his discharge from the army, he began to teach golf. In 1962, he debuted as a professional, winning the United Golf Association (an African American organization) national title. Elder played 17 years with the United Golf Association before his debut with the PGA in November of 1967. Elder was the first African American professional golfer to reach $1 million in earnings and, in 1975, was the first to play at the Masters. Elder won eight tournaments on the Senior PGA Tour, and has been inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame for his work with predominantly-black colleges.
In 1997, when Tiger Woods became the first African American to win the Masters, Elder was present and was thanked by Woods for his pioneering efforts in the integration of the PGA Tour and the Masters.
JULIUS ERVING (1950– ) Basketball Player, Television Analyst, Basketball Executive
Julius Winfield Erving, known to fans as “Dr. J.,” was born in Hempstead, Long Island, on February 22, 1950. As a player at Roosevelt High School, Erving made the All-County and All-Long Island teams. He was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, and after completing his junior year, signed a $500,000, four-year contract with the Virginia Squires of the ABA. Voted Rookie of the Year in 1972, he eventually signed with the New Jersey Nets for $2.8 million over four years.
In his first season with the Nets, Erving led the league in scoring for the second consecutive year and led his team to the ABA championship. After being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, Erving became a favorite with fans, leading the team to the NBA championship in 1983. He became the 13th player to score 20,000 points. Erving retired following the 1986–1987 season. He is credited with popularizing the slam dunk. Erving, who was elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, served as a broadcaster for NBC, and in 1997 was named executive vice president of the Orlando Magic.
GEORGE FOREMAN (1948– ) Boxer, Minister
Born in Marshall, Texas, George Foreman emerged as one of boxing’s most endearing figures. During his childhood in Houston, Foreman was a truant, snatching purses and participating in petty larcenies. His early success in boxing included a gold medal performance at the 1968 summer Olympic Games. After turning pro, he quickly became a top contender, recording 42 knockouts in his first 47 bouts.
Foreman captured the heavyweight title with his victory over Joe Frazier, in Kingston, Jamaica, on January 22, 1973. Having twice defended his belt successfully, he prepared to face Muhammad Ali on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire. The fight became known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Despite being a 4–1 favorite, Foreman was out-fought by Ali who used his “rope-a-dope” tactic to tire Foreman and knock him out in the eighth round.
Foreman soon retired to become a minister and transformed his image into that of a congenial and very popular ex-champion. He initiated a comeback and recaptured the heavyweight crown when he defeated Michael Moorer on November 5, 1994. Foreman, thereby, became the oldest man in history to win the heavyweight championship of the world. He retired shortly thereafter to his gym in Houston.
Foreman entered the arena of entrepreneurship in 1995, promoting his Lean and Mean Grilling Machine. He used the slogan “knock out the fat” and has gained both revenue and notoriety.
ALTHEA GIBSON (1927–2003) Tennis Player
Althea Gibson was born on August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina, but was raised in Harlem. She began her tennis career when she entered and won the Department of Parks Manhattan Girls’ Tennis Championship. In 1942, she began to receive professional coaching at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, and a year later, won the New York State Negro Girls Singles Title. In 1945 and 1946, she won the National Negro Girls Singles championship, and in 1948 won the title in the Women’s Division.
A year later Gibson entered Florida A&M, where she played tennis and basketball. In 1950, she was runner-up for the National Indoor Championship, and became the first African American to play at the U.S. Open at the Forest Hills Country Club. The following year she became the first African American to play at Wimbledon.
In 1957 Gibson won the Wimbledon singles crown, and teamed with Darlene Hard to win the doubles championship. In 1957 and 1958, Gibson won the U.S. Open Women’s Singles title. In 1963, just five years after she retired from tennis, Gibson became the first African American on the Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA).
Gibson has served as a recreation manager, a member of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, and as a sports consultant. She is also the author of the book I Always Wanted to be Somebody. In 1997, her 70th birthday was celebrated and her groundbreaking career was honored by the U.S. Tennis Association during the dedication of Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open tournament is held. A 2002 edition of Ebony magazine, named her as one of the ten greatest women athletes of all time.
On September 28, 2003, Gibson died of respiratory failure in Orange, New Jersey. Gibson was 76 years old.
BOB GIBSON (1935– ) Baseball Player, Baseball Coach, Radio Announcer
Bob Gibson was born in Omaha, Nebraska, into poverty. Fatherless, he was one of seven children who lived in a four-room wooden shack. Denied a spot on Omaha Technical High School’s baseball team because he was African American, he was permitted to join the track and field and basketball teams. He attended Creighton University in Omaha and became the first African American athlete to play both basketball and baseball.
Gibson’s skill at basketball allowed him to play with the Harlem Globetrotters. While with them, he accepted an offer to join the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league team at Omaha for a salary of $3,000 and a $1,000 bonus. Gibson debuted with the Cardinals in 1959, beginning a Hall of Fame career that lasted 17 seasons and included five 20-victory seasons and 13 consecutive winning seasons. His highlights include a 1968 campaign in which he recorded a remarkable 13 shutouts, 22 victories, 268 strikeouts, and an Earned Run Average of 1.12, still a modern-era Major League record.
During his career, Gibson recorded 3,117 strikeouts and finished with an ERA of 2.91. He won seven and lost two games in three World Series appearances, with an ERA of 1.89. In Game 1 of the 1968 series he struck out 17 Detroit Tigers. Gibson pitched the Cardinals to World Championships in 1964 and 1967. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.
Gibson has served as pitching coach with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves and has been a special pitching consultant to many teams. He has also broadcast for the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2006 Gibson was voted by the Fox Sports Net series, The Sports List, as the most intimidating pitcher of all time.
JOSH GIBSON (1911–1947) Baseball Player
Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, in 1911, and moved to Pittsburgh, where he left school at the age of 14 to work for Gimbels Department store. Gimbels had a baseball team, which is where Gibson first attracted attention.
Josh Gibson was a catcher whose entire 16-year career was spent in the Negro League. His career began in 1929. With the exception of a stint with the Pittsburgh Crawfords between 1934 and 1936, and one season in Mexico in 1941, Gibson played with the Homestead Grays. His first game with Homestead took place on July 25, 1929, when, as a spectator, he was called out of the stands to replace an injured starter in a game against the Kansas City Monarchs.
Gibson was known for his legendary power. Playing at Yankee Stadium, he once hit a home run over the left field bullpen and out of the stadium. Gibson also hit a 580-foot home run over the top of the bleachers. Though accurate records are unavailable, Gibson is credited with hitting as many as 800 home runs in his career, including one season (1936) in which he hit 84.
Gibson died in 1947, from a stroke thought to be brought on by his alcoholism. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
KEN GRIFFEY JR. (1969– ) Baseball Player
Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the most famous professional athletes in America at the turn of the century. Griffey’s talents and flair have made him one of the most popular baseball players in today’s game as evidenced by his 11 All-Star Game appearances.
Griffey was drafted first overall in 1987 by the Seattle Mariners while still in high school in Cincinnati. He broke into Major League Baseball in 1989 at the age of 19. He has won ten gold gloves for his play in center-field and has driven in more than 100 runs eight times. In 1997, Griffey was unanimously selected as the league MVP, and in 1998, he accomplished the rare feat of hitting 50 home runs in back-to-back years. His chase of the single season home run record with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the summer of 1998 caught the attention of the entire nation. A vote of fellow major league players gave Griffey the title of Player of the Decade for the 1990s.
In 2000, Griffey signed what was, at the time, the richest contract in the history of major league baseball, a nine-year, $112.5 million deal, with the Cincinnati Reds. The trade brought Griffey back to his hometown.
Griffey was plagued with injuries during the 2001– 2004 seasons. In 2004 he hit his 500th home run, placing him among only 20 other players who have achieved this record. In 2005 Griffey played more than he had over the last few seasons. He was named National League Comeback Player for 2005.
LUSIA HARRIS (1955– ) Basketball Player, Basketball Coach, Motivational Speaker
Lusia Harris was born in 1955, in Minter City, Mississippi, and participated on the silver medal-winning Olympic basketball team in 1976. She was high scorer at the Olympics and at the 1975 World University and Pan American Games. In college, she led Delta State University to three Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women titles from 1975 to 1977. She was named Mississippi’s first amateur athlete of the year in 1976. Harris was selected as Delta State’s homecoming queen, the first African American so honored.
Harris, the dominant female player of her era, broke hundreds of records and won countless American and international awards. As a graduate student, she became assistant basketball coach and admissions counselor at Delta State. She played briefly with the Houston Angels of the Women’s Professional League in 1980.
In the 1990s, Harris coached basketball and taught physical education in Mississippi. In 1992, along with Nera White, Harris became the first woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. She is also a motivational speaker.
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW (1977– ) Basketball Player
Holdsclaw was born in 1977 in Queens, New York. Holdsclaw left New York to attend the University of Tennessee and play for coach Pat Summitt.
At Tennessee, Holdsclaw became the most honored female basketball player since Cheryl Miller. Holdsclaw was a three-time All-American, two-time player-of-the-year award winner, and winner of three NCAA titles. In 1998 Holdsclaw became the first African American female basketball player to win the Sullivan Award. This award is given to the top amateur athlete in America.
Holdsclaw, a 6′2″ forward, has been compared to both Cheryl Miller and Michael Jordan. She is being viewed as the commercial and athletic star to increase the visibility of the WNBA.
Holdsclaw was the first pick in the 1999 WNBA draft by the Washington Mystics, and was named Rookie of the Year following her first season. She has been selected as a starter in the WNBA All-Star game for three consecutive years. In the 2000 Summer Olympics, Holdsclaw led the U.S. Women’s basketball team to the gold medal. On March 21, 2005 Holdsclaw was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. She continues her career in the WNBA averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds per game.
LARRY HOLMES (1949– ) Boxer
Holmes was born in Cuthberth, Georgia, and turned professional at the age of twenty-four after serving as sparring partner for Muhammad Ali. On June 9, 1978, he won the World Boxing Council heavyweight title from Ken Norton. On October 2, 1980, in Las Vegas, he defeated Ali by a technical knockout.
Holmes defended his title 12 times until losing to Michael Spinks on September 22, 1985, and again on April 19, 1986, in 15-round decisions. In all, Holmes held the heavyweight title for seven years, three months, and 13 days. A brief comeback attempt ended in a knockout by Mike Tyson on February 22, 1988. Holmes, who was voted one of the ten Most Outstanding Men in America by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, launched a second comeback in 1991. He fought and lost title bids against Evander Holyfield in 1992 and Oliver McCall in 1995. The former champion, who continues to fight due to monetary difficulties stemming from his relationship with his former promoter Don King, has amassed a career record of 68 wins and 6 losses.
EVANDER HOLYFIELD (1962– ) Boxer
Evander Holyfield is known for his championship boxing ability, his devout religious faith, and his humble demeanor. In boxing, a sport dominated by braggadocio and large egos, Holyfield has become a popular champion due to his talent and humility.
Holyfield was born and still resides in Atlanta, Georgia. In the 1984 Olympics, he won the bronze medal in the light heavyweight division. He immediately turned professional and in 1986 won the cruiserweight title from Dwight Muhammad Qawi. By 1989 he was the undisputed cruiserweight champion.
Holyfield entered the heavyweight division that same year and in 1990 defeated Buster Douglas to win the heavyweight title. After several defenses of his title, Holyfield was defeated by Riddick Bowe in 1992 and retired due to health problems.
Holyfield, a natural light heavyweight, has always undergone strenuous training to be able to fight against the bigger fighters in the heavyweight division. In 1993 he came out of retirement to defeat Bowe and regain his title. After losing his title to Michael Moorer, Holyfield finally fought heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in 1996. Holyfield upset Tyson to regain the heavyweight title and then defeated Tyson the next year when Tyson bit Holyfield twice and was disqualified.
With the WBA heavyweight title his, Holyfield next faced Michael Moorer in Las Vegas on November 8, 1997. An eighth-round TKO gave Holyfield the victory and unified the WBA and IBF heavyweight championships. After successful defenses of the titles, Holyfield lost both in a 1999 rematch against Lennox Lewis.
Holyfield managed to regain the WBA title in his next fight, as he defeated John Ruiz in August 2000. The two have fought twice since, with the second fight resulting in a loss for Holyfield and the third being ruled a draw. Holyfield continues to successfully pursue the heavyweight title, defeating another former heavyweight champion, Hasim Rahman, on June 1, 2002. Although banned from boxing in New York in August 2005, Holy-field’s record is 39 wins, 8 losses, and 2 draws with 26 wins by knockout.
REGGIE JACKSON (1946– ) Baseball Player
Because of his outstanding performance in postseason play, Reggie Jackson became known as “Mr. October.” During his years with the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees, Jackson captured or tied 13 World Series records to become baseball’s top record holder in Series play.
Born in Wynecote, Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1946, he followed his father’s encouragement to become an all-around athlete while at Cheltenham High School. He ran track, played halfback in football, and was a star hitter on the school baseball team. An outstanding football and baseball player at Arizona State University, he left after his sophomore year to join the Athletics (then located in Kansas City).
In 1968, his first full season with the Athletics, Jackson hit 29 homers and batted in 74 runs, but made 18 errors and struck out 171 times, the worst seasonal total by a left-handed hitter in baseball history. After playing a season of winter ball under Frank Robinson’s direction, his performance continued to improve, and, in 1973, he batted .293, led the league in home runs (32), RBIs (117), and slugging percentage (.531), and was selected Most Valuable Player.
While with Oakland, Jackson helped the Athletics to three straight World Series championships, from 1972 to 1974. Later, with the New York Yankees, Jackson won the World Series in 1977 and 1978. The Yankees also won the American League pennant in 1981. In 1977, he was named Series MVP, after hitting five home runs—including three on three consecutive pitches, in the sixth and deciding game.
The first of the big-money free agents, Jackson hit 144 homers, drove in 461 runs, and boosted his total career home runs to 425 while with the Yankees. Jackson retired in 1987 and has occasionally served as a commentator during baseball broadcasts. His tumultuous relationship with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has continued through the various jobs Jackson has held with the organization. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 and his number 9 was retired on May 22, 2004.
EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON (1959– ) Basketball Player, Basketball Coach, Sports Executive, Talk Show Host, Entrepreneur
Earvin Johnson Jr. was born August 14, 1959, in Lansing, Michigan, and attended Everett High School. While playing for Everett he picked up the nickname “Magic” because of his ball-handling abilities. While in high school, Johnson made the All-State Team and for three years was named the United Press International Prep-Player of the Year in Michigan.
In 1977, Johnson enrolled at Michigan State University and led the Spartans to the national championship in 1979. He then turned professional and was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association draft. He led the Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s. Johnson played with the Lakers until his retirement in 1991 when he tested positive for the HIV/AIDS virus.
Johnson was the recipient of many awards and was chosen to play on many postseason all-star teams. In college, he was named to the All-Big Ten Team in 1977 and chosen as the NCAA Tournament-Most Valuable Player. He was also a consensus All-American selection (1979). During his professional career, he was a three-time league MVP (1987, 1989, 1990) and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team (1980) and the AllNBA Team (1982-1989, 1991). He was also recognized as the NBA Finals MVP (1987) and the NBA All-Star Game MVP (1990, 1992).
During his retirement, Johnson played on the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team in 1992 and in the 1992 NBA All-Star game, where he won another MVP award. He also coached the Lakers briefly at the end of the 1994 season, became team vice president, and had an ownership stake in the Lakers, which he was forced to surrender upon his short-lived return in 1996 as a player. Johnson hosted a late-night talk show in 1998, but it was cancelled shortly afterwards. In 2001 he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Johnson returned briefly to the game in 2006 as part of the NBA All-Star Game Players Skills Challenge.
JACK JOHNSON (1878–1946) Boxer
Jack Johnson became the first African American heavyweight champion by winning the crown from Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia, on December 26, 1908.
Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas, on March 31, 1878. He was so tiny as a boy that he was nicknamed “Li’l Arthur,” a name that stuck with him throughout his career. As a young man, he drifted around the country, making his way through Chicago, Boston, and New York. He learned to box by working out with veteran professionals whenever he could. When he finally got his chance at the title, he had already been fighting for nine years and had lost only 3 of 100 bouts.
With his victory over Burns, Johnson became the center of a bitter racial controversy, as his flamboyant lifestyle and outspokenness aroused white resentment. Public pressure forced former champion Jim Jeffries to come out of retirement and challenge Johnson for the title. When the two fought on July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nevada, Johnson knocked out Jeffries in the 14th round.
In 1913, Johnson left the United States due to legal difficulties. Two years later he defended his title against Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba, and was knocked out in the 26th round. His career record was 107 wins, 6 losses.
Johnson died on June 10, 1946, in an automobile crash in North Carolina. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954.
MARION JONES (1975– ) Track and Field Athlete
Marion Lois Jones was born in Los Angeles on October 12, 1975. As a child living in Thousand Oaks, California, Jones participated in many sports, but she was first attracted to running and jumping while watching track superstars Evelyn Ashford, Carl Lewis, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee on television as they competed in the 1984 Olympics. By the time she had finished high school she had received two High School Athlete of the Year awards for her performance in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes as well as being named California Division I Player of the Year for basketball during her senior year.
Jones went on to play basketball for the University of North Carolina and took the team to three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and a national title. Her love, however, was still track and field: she had dreams of running in the Olympics. She decided to forgo playing basketball during her junior year of college to focus purely on her running in preparation for the 1996 Summer Olympics. A broken foot bone ended her aspirations in late 1995, though. After the 1996 Olympics, Jones rededicated herself to her goal of running in the Olympics by training with Jamaican track star Trevor Graham.
Jones trained during 1996 and in 1997 she won both the 100-meter title and the long jump title at the USA Outdoor Championships becoming the first woman in nine years to win both events. She won a gold medal in the 100-meter sprint and was on the gold winning 4x100-meter relay team at the Outdoor World Championships later that same year. Jones continued to dominate the world of women’s track by setting an American record in the 60-meter sprint in the Gunma International competition in Japan in 1998. She also anchored the Nike International team to a new American record in the 4x200-meter relay at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia that same year. Shortly after, she became the second fastest woman in the world behind Florence Griffith Joyner when she ran 10.71 seconds in the 100-meter sprint at a meet in Chengdu, China. By the end of 1999, Jones had won 37 consecutive races at international and national track and field competitions, including the World Cup and the USA Outdoor Championships. She was also named Track and Field News Top Woman Athlete of the year for three consecutive years.
In Sydney, Australia, host to the 2000 Summer Games, Jones took home three gold medals and two bronze medals fulfilling her dream of not only running in but winning at the Olympics. Her victories were momentarily overshadowed by the publicity surrounding her husband’s use of steriods in the shot put event. Still, Jones was honored with numerous awards after her Olympic victories, including being named Athlete of the Year by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. Jones continued to compete in track and field, winning a gold medal in the 100-meter race in the 2001 Goodwill Games.
In December 2004 Jones was openly accused of using performance-enhancing drugs during her career as a runner. The charges could not be substantiated because Jones had never failed a drug test. In June 2006 at the USA Track and Field Championship in Indianapolis, Jones failed the drug test. She was later cleared of these charges as a second sample showed negative.
After missing the 2003 Olympics due to the birth of her son, Tim Jr., Jones has set her sights on the 2008 Olympic Games. Her preparation includes winning the 100 meter race at Gaz de France with her fastest time in the previous four years.
MICHAEL JORDAN (1963– ) Basketball Player
Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York, on February 17, 1963, and attended the University of North Carolina. He won the NCAA championship as a freshman with the Tar Heels. As a rookie with the Chicago Bulls in 1985, Jordan was named to the All-Star team. A skilled ball handler and a slam dunk artist, he became the second NBA player in history to score more than 3,000 points in a single season in 1986.
Jordan was the NBA’s individual scoring champ from 1987 through 1993. He was also named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player at the end of the 1987–1988 season. In 1991, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their first NBA Championship and was the league’s Most Valuable Player. Under Jordan’s leadership, the Bulls repeated as champions in 1992 and 1993. In 1992 Jordan played for the U.S. Olympic basketball “Dream Team,” which captured the gold medal in Barcelona.
In October of 1993, Jordan announced his retirement from basketball to pursue another lifelong dream—to become a professional baseball player. Jordan began his professional baseball career in 1994 with the Chicago White Sox’s Class A team, the Birmingham Barons. Despite having only a .202 batting average for the year, Jordan was voted the most popular man in baseball in a national poll and remained at the top of Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s top-paid athletes for the third consecutive year, mostly due to endorsements.
In March of 1995, Jordan returned to the NBA with the Bulls. He was named the 1996 All-Star game MVP. Jordan led the Bulls to three straight titles from 1996 to 1998. The 1996 team set a NBA record for most wins (72) in a season. After hitting the shot that won the 1998 NBA Championship, Jordan retired again.
In 2000, Michael Jordan took on yet another role, as it was announced that he would serve as part owner and president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Washington Wizards. It was a position that Jordan would only hold for so long, as he decided in September 2001 to come out of retirement once again, this time as a player for the Wizards. Jordan’s return was met with much enthusiasm by fans and media. On January 4, 2002, facing his former team, the Chicago Bulls, Jordan became only the fourth NBA player to reach 30,000 career points. Just a few months later, Jordan was placed on the injured list with a painful knee injury that shortened his first season. Despite the setback, Jordon played successfully through the 2003 season. He played his 13th and final All-Star game, becoming the all-time leading scorer. During Jordan’s final season, tributes to him were presented in arenas all over the country. Michael Jordan retired from the game of basketball, having scored 32,292 points, the third highest all-time scorer in the game, behind only Kareem Adbul Jabbar and Karl Malone.
FLORENCE GRIFFITH JOYNER (1959–1998) Track and Field Athlete
Born in Los Angeles on December 21, 1959, Florence Griffith started in track at an early age. She first attended California State University-Northridge, but later transferred
with her coach Bob Kersee when he moved to UCLA. In 1987 she married 1984 Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner.
At the 1984 Olympic games she won a silver medal. She returned to the Olympic games in 1988, winning a gold medal in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter relay, and 1600-meter relay races. She set the world record for the 100-meter and 200-meter races that year.
Nicknamed “Flo-Jo,” she was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995. In 1998, she died suddenly in her sleep of an apparent heart seizure.
JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE (1962– ) Track and Field Athlete, Community Activist, Sports Agent
Often touted as the world’s greatest female athlete, Jackie Joyner-Kersee won two gold medals at the 1988 Olympic games and a gold and a bronze medal at the 1992 games.
Joyner-Kersee was born on March 3, 1962, in East St. Louis, Illinois. Prior to winning the 1988 gold medal, she participated in the 1984 Olympics and won the silver medal for the heptathlon despite a torn hamstring muscle.
The only woman to gain more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon four times, she set a world record with 7,215 points at the 1988 Olympic trials. Joyner-Kersee also earned another gold medal in the heptathlon and a bronze medal in the long jump at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. In 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics she won a bronze medal in the long jump, her sixth medal, the most in the history of U.S. women’s track and field.
Joyner-Kersee briefly played professional basketball in the ABL, before retiring from sports to devote time to charitable causes. In addition, Joyner-Kersee is one of the few female sports agents in the United States.
“SUGAR” RAY LEONARD (1956– ) Boxer, Television Analyst
One of the flashiest and most popular fighters of the modern era, Sugar Ray Leonard brought fame to the lighter divisions of boxing which traditionally have not garnered the same amount of attention as the heavyweight division. Leonard was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and won the gold medal in the light welterweight division at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Leonard rose through the professional ranks, winning the welterweight title from Wilfred Benitez in 1979. His fights with Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns established his fame. After losing his first fight and his title to Duran, Leonard used a taunting style and flamboyant ring persona to force Duran to quit in the middle of their second fight. In 1981 he defeated Hearns in the 14th round by technical knockout, rallying from a point deficit. He retired shortly thereafter due to a detached retina.
In 1987, Leonard made a comeback by upsetting middleweight champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. The upset prolonged his career, but he was unable to fight at his former level and retired shortly thereafter.
Leonard’s public persona has led to many sponsorship deals. In addition, he serves as a boxing analyst for HBO and ESPN Classic Sports.
CARL LEWIS (1961– ) Track and Field Athlete
Carl Lewis was born on July 1, 1961, in Birmingham, Alabama. In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Lewis became the first athlete since Jesse Owens in 1936 to win four gold medals in the same Olympic competition.
An often controversial track and field performer, the New Jersey native went into the 1984 competition with the burden of tremendous expectations as the result of intense pre-Olympic publicity. He did not set any Olympic records, and despite his four gold medals, found himself criticized in the media.
Lewis went to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, hoping to duplicate his four gold medal wins. He was the focus of interest as he faced off against his Canadian archrival Ben Johnson. Lewis won gold medals in the long jump and the 100-meter dash (after Johnson was disqualified for steroid use) and a silver medal in the 200-meter dash. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Lewis won a gold medal for the long jump and in the 4x100-meter relay. He won his final gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympiad in the long jump.
Lewis was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2001.
JOE LOUIS (1914–1981) Boxer
Joe Louis held the heavyweight championship for the longest stretch in history—more than 11 years, and defended the title more often than any other heavyweight champion. His 25 title fights were more than the combined total of the eight champions who preceded him.
Born on May 13, 1914, in a sharecropper’s shack in Lexington, Alabama, Louis moved to Detroit as a small boy. Taking up boxing as an amateur, he won 50 out of 59 bouts (43 by knockout), before turning professional in 1934.
In 1935 Lewis fought Primo Carnera, a former boxing champion. Louis knocked out Carnera in six rounds, earning his nickname, “The Brown Bomber.” After knocking out ex-champion Max Baer, Louis suffered his lone pre-championship defeat at the hands of Max Schmeling, who knocked him out in the twelfth round. Less than a month later, Louis knocked out another former champion, Jack Sharkey, in three rounds. He later won a rematch with Schmeling in a racially charged fight that earned him national attention. After defeating a number of other challengers, he was given a title fight with Jim Braddock on June 22, 1937. He stopped Brad-dock in the eighth round to gain the title.
After winning a disputed decision over Joe Walcott in 1947, Louis knocked out Walcott six months later, and then went into retirement. Monetary problems forced Louis into several comebacks that resulted in losses to new heavyweight champions Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano. These monetary difficulties were a problem for Louis for the rest of his life. He died April 12, 1981 at the age of 67.
WILLIE MAYS (1931– ) Baseball Player
During his 21 seasons with the Giants, Willie Mays hit more than 600 home runs. Besides being a solid hitter, Mays also was one of the game’s finest defensive outfielder and baserunners.
Born in Fairfield, Alabama, on May 6, 1931, Mays made his professional debut on July 4, 1948, with the Birmingham Black Barons. He was signed by the New York Giants in 1950 and reached the major leagues in 1951. He was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year for his 20 home runs, 68 RBIs, and fielding, all of which contributed to the Giants pennant victory.
After two years in the U.S. Army, Mays returned to lead the Giants to the World Championship in 1954, gaining recognition as the league’s Most Valuable Player for his 41 homers, 110 RBIs, and .345 batting average.
When the Giants moved to San Francisco, Mays continued his home run hitting, and led his team to a 1962 pennant. A year later, Sport magazine named him “the greatest player of the decade.” He won the MVP award again in 1965, after hitting 52 home runs and batting .317.
Traded to the New York Mets before the 1972 season, he continued to play outfield and first base. At the end of the 1973 season, his statistics included 2,992 games, 3,283 hits, and 660 home runs—third all-time. Willie Mays is one of only 14 ballplayers to hit four home runs in a single game. After acting as a coach for the Mets, Mays left baseball to pursue a business career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. In 2001 the San Francisco Giants dedicated a plaza and statue to him outside their new stadium.
CHERYL MILLER (1964– ) Basketball Player, Television Analyst, Basketball Coach
Cheryl Miller was born and raised in Riverside, California. She has occasionally been overshadowed by her brother, Reggie, a guard with the Indiana Pacers. Another brother, Darrell, played baseball professionally with the California Angels in the late 1980s.
The 6′3″ Cheryl Miller began attracting notice in high school, having once scored 105 points in a game at Polytechnic High School. Miller was offered nearly 250 scholarships before deciding to enroll at the University of Southern California (USC). There she led the Trojans to two national titles, was All-American four times, and was named National Player of the Year three times.
Miller was a member of numerous national teams including the U.S. Junior National Team in 1981 and the National Team the following year. She participated in the World Championships and the Pan American Games in 1983. In 1984, she won an Olympic gold medal.
Following her playing career, Miller worked as a television basketball commentator. In 1993, she became the women’s head basketball coach at her alma mater, USC, but announced her retirement in 1995. In the previous year, she was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Miller held the post of head coach of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury from 1997–2000 and also served as the team’s general manager.
EDWIN MOSES (1955– ) Track and Field Athlete, Olympic Committee Chairperson
Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1955, Edwin Moses became an internationally known track star in hurdles. Having attended Morehouse College, he was the top ranked intermediate hurdler in the world by 1976. That same year he earned a gold medal at the Olympic Games, a feat to be duplicated eight years later. Moses also won a bronze medal at the 1988 Games. A world record holder in the 400-meter hurdles, he recorded 122 consecutive victories in competition. Sports Illustrated presented Moses with its Athlete of the Year award in 1984, one year after he won the Sullivan Award, given annually to America’s best amateur athlete. He was elected to the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1994.
Moses received his M.B.A. from Pepperdine University in 1994 and is currently a financial consultant. He has served as the chairperson of the U.S. Olympic Committee Substance Abuse Center as well on the International Olympic Committee Athletes Commission.
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (1972– ) Basketball Player
Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1972 to a military family, Shaquille O’Neal has become one of the most famous athletes in America. O’Neal has also appeared in movies and has released his own rap albums.
O’Neal’s size and talent attracted attention while he was in high school. While attending Louisiana State University, he was named a collegiate All-American in 1992 and left school to pursue a professional career. He was the first pick of the 1992 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic and starred for them until 1996. He led the Magic to the 1995 NBA finals. In 1996 he signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
O’Neal has enjoyed great success with the Lakers, leading them to a third straight NBA Championship title in 2002. He has been named Finals MVP in each of the three series, and was named the league’s MVP for the 2000 season. O’Neal has been selected as an NBA All-Star nine times, and has led the league in scoring twice (1995 and 2000).
In 2004 O’Neal welcomed a trade to the Miami Heats and promised to bring the team a championship. In 2006 the Heats won their first NBA championship, lead by O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. It was O’Neal’s fourth title in seven seasons.
JESSE OWENS (1913–1980) Track and Field Athlete
The track and field records Jesse Owens set have all been eclipsed, but his reputation as one of the first great athletes with the combined talents of a sprinter, low hurdler, and broad jumper has not diminished.
Born James Cleveland Owens in Danville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, Jesse and his family moved to Ohio when he was still young. In 1932, while attending East Technical High School in Cleveland, Owens was clocked at 10.3 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Two years later, Owens entered Ohio State University and became known as “The Ebony Antelope.” While competing in the Big Ten Championships at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 25, 1935, Owens had what has been called “the greatest single day in the history of man’s athletic achievements.” In the space of about seventy minutes, he tied the world record for the 100-yard dash and surpassed the world record for five other events including the broad jump, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the 220-yard dash.
In 1936, at the Berlin Olympics, Owens won four gold medals, at that time the most universally acclaimed feat in the history of the games. However, he still faced discrimination in the United States after his victories. He never graduated from Ohio State but did eventually found his own public relations firm.
SATCHEL PAIGE (1906–1982) Baseball Player, Baseball Coach
Long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of “organized baseball,” Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige was the most famous African American baseball player. As an outstanding performer in the Negro Leagues, Paige had become a legendary figure whose encounters with Major League Baseball players added considerably to his athletic reputation.
Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, on July 7, 1906. He began playing semi-professional ball while working as an iceman and porter. In the mid-1920s, he became a professional player with the Birmingham Black Barons, and later, while playing at Chattanooga, acquired the sobriquet “Satchel” because of his “Satchel-sized feet.”
For the next two decades, Paige was the dominant pitcher in Negro League baseball. In 1933, he won 31 games and lost 4. Paige also dominated winter ball in Latin America during the 1930s. In 1942, Paige led the Kansas City Monarchs to victory in the Negro World Series, and four years later he helped them to the pennant by allowing only two runs in 93 innings, a performance which included a string of 64 straight scoreless innings.
In 1948, he was brought up to the major leagues. Despite being well past his prime, he still was able to contribute six victories in Cleveland’s pennant drive and pitched in the World Series. Four years later, while pitching for the St. Louis Browns, he was named to the American League All-Star squad.
Until the 1969 baseball season, Paige was active on the barnstorming circuit with the Harlem Globetrotters and a host of other exhibition teams. In 1969 the Atlanta Braves, in an attempt to make Paige eligible for baseball’s pension plan, signed him to a one-year contract as coach. Paige died in June of 1982.
WALTER PAYTON (1954–1999) Football Player, Entrepreneur
Walter Payton was born on July 25, 1954, in Columbia, Mississippi. When he retired as a running back for the Chicago Bears after the 1986 season, he was the National Football League’s all-time leading rusher, breaking a record held for many years by Jim Brown.
A graduate of Jackson State University, Payton played his entire career in Chicago, receiving numerous awards and helping to lead the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX. He broke O. J. Simpson’s single game rushing record after gaining 275 yards during a game with the Minnesota Vikings in 1977. Seven years later, during a game against the New Orleans Saints, he surpassed Jim Brown’s career rushing record. He concluded his career with a total of 16,726 yards rushing.
Payton funded several auto racing teams and fronted a group of businessmen in an attempt to bring a professional football team to the city of St. Louis. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1998 Payton was diagnosed with a fatal liver disease. He died on November 1, 1999.
CALVIN PEETE (1943– ) Golfer
Calvin Peete was born in Detroit, on July 18, 1943. During World War II, Peete moved with his family to Pahikee, Florida. One of 19 children, as a youth he was a farm laborer and itinerant peddler, selling wares to farmers along the East Coast.
He began golfing at the age of 23 and soon realizing that he possessed some aptitude for the sport. Unlike other African American golfers of his era who were forced into caddying as a means of gaining entrance into the sport, Peete was able to move directly toward a professional career. Peete did, however, face the handicap of a left arm that he was unable to completely straighten, leading experts to tell him that he would never be successful.
After turning pro in 1971, Peete struggled. In 1978, he placed 108th in total money winnings on the PGA tour. Peete’s first tour victory came at the 1979 Greater Milwaukee Open, which he won again in 1982, along with the Anheuser-Busch Classic, BC Open, and the Pensacola Open. In 1981 and 1982, he finished first on the tour in the categories of driving accuracy and greens reached in regulation.
Despite his success, Peete was not considered fully accredited because the PGA does not recognize a golfer unless he has obtained a high school diploma. This was a requirement toward obtaining a spot on the prestigious Ryder Cup team. In 1982, with the assistance of his wife, Peete passed the Michigan General Equivalency examination 24 years after leaving high school. Ebony magazine rewarded him with a Black Achievement award, and, in 1983, Peete was presented with the Jackie Robinson Award.
Peete captured two more PGA titles in 1983—the Georgia-Pacific Atlanta Classic and the Anheuser-Busch Classic. He was also asked to represent the United States as a member of the Ryder Cup team. That same year, he won the Ben Hogan Award. The following year, Peete had the best scoring average on the PGA tour. He is now a member of the PGA’s Senior Tour.
JERRY RICE (1962– ) Football Player
Jerry Rice was born in Starkville, Mississippi, on October 13, 1962. At a collegian at Mississippi Valley State, Rice set 18 Division II records. Drafted in the first round by the 49ers in 1985, Rice combined with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young to form the most elite pass-catching combination in pro football history. He traces the development of his superb hands to his childhood, during which his father would toss him bricks during construction work.
Rice currently holds the career record for touchdowns. His ten straight seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards is also a league record. His best season was the strike-shortened 1987 campaign, during which he scored 22 touchdowns in only 12 regular season games. In that same year, Rice scored touchdowns in 13 straight games. In a 1990 contest with the Atlanta Falcons, Rice scored five touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl every season until slowed by an injury in 1997. He was named the NFL’s Player of the year by the Sporting News in 1987 and 1990. Rice was Most Valuable Player in the 49ers’ Super Bowl XXIII victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Rice helped lead the 49ers to Super Bowl victories after the 1988, 1989, and 1994 seasons. Rice ended his 16-year career as a wide receiver with the San Francisco 49ers following the 2000 season. In 2001, he signed a multi-year contract with the Oakland Raiders.
Rice excelled in 2001 with the Raiders and was instrumental in the Raiders’ appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII. In 2004, with a slowing of his performance, Rice moved to the Seattle Seahawks and later to the Denver Bronco’s. In 2005 Rice decided to retire. In order to retire with the 49ers, the team he began his career with, Rice was given a once day contract. On August 24, 2005, Jerry Rice officially retired from the game.
OSCAR ROBERTSON (1938– ) Basketball Player, Business Executive, Community Activist
Oscar Robertson was born in Charlotte, Tennessee, in 1938, before moving to Indiana and attending Indianapolis’ Crispus Attucks High School. He led his team to the prestigious Indiana state basketball title on two occasions and shortly thereafter became the first African American to play at the University of Cincinnati. He helped Cincinnati reach the Final Four in 1959 and 1960, was named the United Press International college player of the year for three consecutive seasons, and set 14 major collegiate records. He also became the first to lead the NCAA in scoring for three consecutive seasons.
In 1960, and after participating on the U.S. gold medal winning Olympic basketball team as co-captain, Robertson signed a $100,000 contract with the Cincinnati Royals, earning Rookie of the Year honors during his initial season in the NBA. At 6′5″, 210 pounds, he would become the NBA’s first true “big guard.” The multidimensional Robertson, known as the “Big O,” was a textbook fundamental player and unyieldingly physical. During the 1962 season he led the NBA in assists, at 11.4 per game. His best season was the 1964 campaign in which he averaged 31.4 points per game and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Over the course of five separate seasons, Robertson, averaged more than 20 points and 10 assists per game, something no other player in NBA history has accomplished. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1961, 1964, and 1969 All-Star games. Late in his career, Robertson joined the Milwaukee Bucks and led Milwaukee to its only NBA championship in 1971.
Robertson became the president of the NBA Players Association. Under his leadership, the NBAPA established
collective bargaining with the league’s owners. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979, and was named to the NBA’s 35th anniversary all-time team in 1980. Robertson was also elected to the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984.
Robertson has remained visible off the court, becoming a successful chemical company executive as president/CEO of ORCHEM, Inc. in 1981, and starting Oscar Robertson and Associates in 1983. He is a member of the NAACP Sports Board, a trustee of the Indiana High School and Basketball Halls of Fame, the National Director of the Pepsi-Cola Hot Shot Program, and the President of the NBA Retired Players Association. Robertson was also the developer of affordable housing units in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. He served in the U.S. Army for eight years.
EDDIE G. ROBINSON (1919– ) College Football Coach
Eddie Gay Robinson was born on February 13, 1919, in Jackson, Louisiana. As a gifted athlete in high school, Robinson earned a scholarship to Leland College in Louisiana. A star quarterback, Robinson got involved in his first coaching clinic there. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Robinson took his first college coaching job in 1941. Though only 22 years old at the time, Gram-bling State gave Robinson the opportunity to coach.
The early success of Grambling State’s football team established Robinson as a fixture at Grambling State. He coached numerous NFL stars and successful teams during his tenure as coach. In 1985, Robinson had surpassed Bear Bryant as the career leader in victories by a head coach. He retired following the 1997 season. Two years later his autobiography, Never Before, Never Again, was published.
FRANK ROBINSON (1935– ) Baseball Player, Baseball Manager, Sports Executive
Born in Beaumont, Texas, in 1936, Frank Robinson moved to Oakland, California, at the age of five. During his teens, he was a football and baseball star at McClyronds High School. After graduation in 1953, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds.
In 1956, Robinson debuted in Major League Baseball, hitting 38 homers and winning Rookie of the Year honors. During the next eight years, he hit 259 homers and had 800 RBIs. In 1961, Robinson was named Most Valuable Player for leading Cincinnati to the National League pennant. Five years later, Robinson won the American League’s Triple Crown and became the first player to win the MVP in both leagues. He retired as an active player after the 1976 season with a lifetime batting average of .294 in 2,808 games along with 2,943 hits, 1,829 runs, and 1,812 RBIs. His 586 home runs rank fourth all-time. Robinson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Frank Robinson was Major League Baseball’s first African American manager. He was named to the head post of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. Robinson left the Indians in 1977, and became the manager of the Rochester Red Wings, a minor league team, in 1978. In 1981, Robinson was hired by the San Francisco Giants, where he managed the team until 1984. He also managed the Baltimore Orioles during the late 1980s. He later became the assistant general manager of that team. After serving three years as vice-president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, Robinson became manager for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. Operating from his gut instincts, Robinson’s techniques as a manger were considered controversial and were highly criticized. After serving as manager from 2002–2006 Robinson’s contract was not renewed. In 2005 Robinson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
JACKIE ROBINSON (1919–1972) Baseball Player, Business Executive, Community Activist
Born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919, Robinson was raised in Pasadena, California. At UCLA he gained All-American honorable mention as a halfback, but he left college in his junior year to play professional football for the Los Angeles Bulldogs. After serving as a U.S. Army lieutenant during World War II, Robinson returned to civilian life with the hope of becoming a physical education coach. He began to play in the Negro Baseball League to establish himself.
In 1945, while he was playing with the Kansas City Monarchs, Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him to a contract. In 1946 he played for the Dodgers top minor league in Montreal. On April 10, 1947, the Dodgers announced that they had purchased Robinson’s contract and the following day he began his Major League Baseball career. During a ten-year career, he hit .311 in 1,382 games with 1,518 hits, 947 runs, 273 doubles, and 734 RBIs. He won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1949, and played on six National League pennant winners, as well as one world championship team. Robinson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
After his retirement from baseball, Robinson became a bank official, president of a land development firm, and a director of programs to combat drug addiction. He died on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut.
“SUGAR RAY” ROBINSON (1921–1989) Boxer
Born Walker Smith, in Detroit on May 3, 1921, he took the name Robinson from the certificate of an amateur boxer whose identity enabled him to meet the age requirements for getting a match in Michigan.
As a youth, Robinson had watched a Detroit neighbor, Joe Louis, train for an amateur boxing career. When Robinson moved to New York two years later, he began to spend most of his time at local gyms in preparation for his own amateur career. After winning all 89 of his amateur bouts and the 1939 Golden Gloves featherweight championship, he turned professional in 1940 at Madison Square Garden.
Robinson beat Tommy Bell in an elimination title bout in December 1946 to win the welterweight title. He successfully defended the title for five years, and on February 14, 1951, took the middleweight crown from Jake LaMotta.
In July of 1951, he lost the title to Randy Turpin, only to win it back two months later. Retiring for a time, Robinson subsequently fought a series of exciting battles with Carl “Bobo” Olsen, Carmen Basilio, and Gene Fullmer before retiring permanently on December 10, 1965, having won six titles.
Suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s disease, Robinson died of natural causes at the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, on April 12, 1989. Over his career, he won 174 of 201 professional bouts and titles in three weight classes.
WILMA RUDOLPH (1940–1994) Track and Field Athlete, Track and Field Coach, Community Activist, Lecturer
Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 17th of 19 children. At an early age, she survived polio and scarlet fever. Through daily leg massages administered in turn by different members of her family, she progressed to the point where she was able to walk with the aid of a special shoe. Three years later, however, she discarded the shoe, and began joining her brother in backyard basketball games. At Burt High School in Clarksville, Rudolph broke the state basketball record for girls. As a sprinter, she was undefeated high school track meets.
In 1957, Rudolph enrolled at Tennessee State University and began training for the Olympic games in Rome. She gained national recognition in college meets, setting the world record for 200-meters in July of 1960. In the Olympics, she earned the title of the “World’s Fastest Woman” by winning gold medals for the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash (setting an Olympic record), and for anchoring the 400-meter relay (setting a world record). She was named by the Associated Press as the U.S. Female Athlete of the Year for 1960 and also won United Press Athlete of the Year honors.
Rudolph served as a track coach, an athletic consultant, and assistant director of athletics for the Mayor’s Youth Foundation in Chicago. She was also the founder of the Wilma Rudolph Foundation. Rudolph also was a talk show hostess and active on the lecture circuit. On November 12, 1994, Wilma Rudolph died at her home in Brentwood, Tennessee, of a brain tumor.
BILL RUSSELL (1934– ) Basketball Player, Basketball Coach, Sports Executive, Television Commentator
Bill Russell, who led the Boston Celtics to 11 titles including eight in a row, is regarded as the finest defensive basketball player in the game’s history. The 6′10″ star is also the first African American to coach a National Basketball Association team.
Russell was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. The family settled in Oakland, California, when Russell was a youth. At McClyronds High School, Russell proved to be an awkward but determined basketball player who eventually received a scholarship to the nearby University of San Francisco.
In his sophomore year he became the most publicized athlete on the West Coast. Over the next two years, his fame spread across the nation as he led his team to a record 60 consecutive victories and two straight NCAA titles.
The Celtics had never won an NBA Championship before Russell’s arrival in 1957. With the help of Russell’s defensive capabilities, the Celtics became the most successful team in the history of professional sports, winning the world championship eight years in a row. Russell himself was named Most Valuable Player on five separate occasions (1958, 1961 to 1963, 1965). In 1966, Russell became the Celtics player/coach.
After the 1968–1969 season, having led the Celtics to their 11th NBA crown, Russell retired as both coach and player. He left the game as its all-time leader in minutes played (40,726). In 1980, the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America selected Russell as the greatest player in NBA history.
After retirement, Russell was a color commentator on NBC-TV’s NBA Game of the Week. In 1974, he accepted a lucrative contract to become head coach and general manager of the Seattle Supersonics and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He remained at Seattle’s helm through 1977 and returned to the coaching ranks ten years later for a one-year stint with the Sacramento Kings. He also served as the team’s director of player personnel in 1988.
DEION SANDERS (1967– ) Football Player
Deion Sanders was born in Fort Myers, Florida, and first achieved fame as an All-American defensive back at Florida State University. Sanders was also a baseball star at the school, and after leaving college in 1989 pursued professional careers in both sports.
Sanders was drafted by the football Atlanta Falcons and has also played for the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Washington Redskins. He was selected as an All-Pro seven times and was named the top defensive player in the league in 1994. Sanders won Super Bowls with San Francisco in 1994 and Dallas in 1995. He announced his retirement from football in July 2001.
Sanders’s baseball career has also been successful. He was drafted and played with the New York Yankees until traded to the Atlanta Braves in 1991. He played in two World Series with the Braves and has also played with the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds. Sanders’s baseball career has been cut short by injuries suffered while playing football.
Sanders is known for his fun-loving image, evidenced by his nickname, “Prime Time.” Known for flashy clothing and on-field theatrics, Sanders became one of the most visible athletes in the United States. However, a brush with depression caused him to change his image and rediscover his Christian faith in 1998.
GALE SAYERS (1943– ) Football Player, Athletic Director, Community Activist, Entrepreneur
Gale Sayers was born in Wichita, Kansas, on May 30, 1943. He participated in football and track while in high school and enrolled at Kansas University. He signed with the Chicago Bears before graduating but returned to finish and also earned a master’s degree.
Sayers garnered All-Pro honors in his rookie season of 1965 and three of the next four seasons. Sayers led the league in rushing in 1969. In a 1965 game against the San Francisco 49ers, he tied an NFL record by scoring six touchdowns.
Sayers’s career was ended after the 1971 season due to a knee injury. His final totals included 56 touchdowns—39 rushing, 9 receiving, six on kickoff returns (including a 103 yarder in 1967), and two on punt returns. He was named to the “All-NFL 1960–1984 All-Star Team” as a kick returner. Despite his brief career, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Following his playing career, Sayers was named assistant to the athletic director at Kansas and in 1981, became the athletic director at Southern Illinois University. Active in the community, Sayers has been the commissioner of the Chicago Park District; the co-chairperson of the Legal Defense Fund for Sports, NAACP Coordinator; and an honorary chairman of the American Cancer Society in addition to his involvement in the Reach Out Program. In 1982, Sayers founded his own computer supplies firm. The Kansas University School of Education’s Gale Sayers Microcomputer Center was dedicated in 2000.
CHARLIE SIFFORD (1922– ) Golfer
Charlotte, North Carolina, native Charlie Sifford was the first African American to participate in a predominately white golf event, the 1957 Long Beach Open. Sifford’s entry into golf began as a caddie at the age of nine. At 13, he won a caddie tournament shooting a 70. After moving to Philadelphia, Sifford worked as a teaching professional and chauffeur.
Sifford became the first African American to be awarded a PGA card as an approved player in 1959 when the tour lifted its “Caucasian only” clause. He was also the first to win a major PGA event, the Hartford Open, in 1967. On the Seniors Tour, Sifford triumphed at the PGA Seniors Open (1975), and the Suntree Seniors Open (1980). He also won the Negro National Title six times, including five consecutively from 1952 to 1956. Sifford’s autobiography, Just Let Me Play: The Story of Charlie Sifford, The First Black PGA Golfer, was published in 1992, in which he exposed the racism that remained after joining the PGA Tour.
O.J. SIMPSON (1947– ) Football Player, Television Commentator, Actor
Born in San Francisco on July 9, 1947, Orenthal James Simpson starred at the University of Southern California, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1968. One year prior to that, he was a member of the USC relay team that set a world record of 38.6 seconds in the 440-yard run. ABC Sports voted him College Player of the Decade. He signed with the Buffalo Bills in 1969, and three years later won his first rushing title.
Simpson enjoyed his finest season in 1973. On opening day, he rushed for 250 yards against the New England Patriots, breaking the record of 247 yards held by Willie Ellison. His yardage total of 2,003 for the entire season surpassed the previous mark of 1,863 held by Jim Brown. In addition, he scored 12 touchdowns, averaged six yards per carry, and had more rushing yardage than 15 other NFL clubs. He was named Player of the Year and won the Jim Thorpe Trophy.
Simpson retired from football in 1978. He has appeared in several feature films and worked as a sports commentator for ABC-TV and NBC-TV. In 1995, a jury found Simpson not guilty of charges that he had
brutally slain his ex-wife and a male friend. The decision was rejected by many Americans, and Simpson has since been forced to live a reclusive lifestyle.
LAWRENCE TAYLOR (1959– ) Football Player
Born in Williamsburg, Virginia, Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the linebacker position in the NFL by virtue of his strength and speed.
After an outstanding career at the University of North Carolina where he was named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1980, Taylor was taken by the New York Giants with the second pick of the 1981 draft. Taylor amassed 132.5 career sacks and was an integral part of two Giants Super Bowl championships, following the 1986 and 1990 seasons. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1980s.
Problems with substance abuse and taxes have marked his post-football career, at one point leading him to attempt a professional wrestling career in order to earn money. Despite these troubles, Taylor is still acknowledged as one of the finest linebackers in the history of the NFL. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January of 1999.
MARSHALL W. “MAJOR” TAYLOR (1878–1932) Cyclist
Marshall W. “Major” Taylor became America’s first African American U.S. National Champion in 1899. Born in Indianapolis in 1878, the son of a coachman, he worked at a bicycle store part-time as a teen. After attending his first race, his boss suggested that Major enter a couple of races. He won a ten-mile race and proceeded to compete as an amateur.
By the time he was 16, he went to work in a factory owned by a former champion and, with his new boss’s encouragement, competed in races in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. During nearly 16 years of competition, he won numerous championships and set several world records. Taylor is a member of the Bicycle Hall of Fame. He died in 1932.
DEBI THOMAS (1967– ) Figure Skater
Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, Debi Thomas was the first African American figure skater to win a major championship. Thomas was the winner at the 1985 National Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The following year she captured the U.S. and World figure skating titles, becoming the first African American to capture an international singles meet.
Thomas won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, becoming the first African American to win an Olympic medal in a winter sport. Dividing her time between collegiate studies and a professional skating career as a member of “Stars on Ice,” Thomas earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford in 1991. She retired from the sport the following year to pursue a career in medicine. In 1997, Thompson completed medical studies at Northwestern University.
JOHN THOMPSON (1941– ) College Basketball Coach
John Thompson was born in Washington, DC, in 1941. He played college basketball at Providence College and graduated in 1964. Thompson played with the Boston Celtics of the NBA from 1964 to 1966. He won NBA titles each season and played behind Hall of Fame center Bill Russell.
In 1966 Thompson began coaching St. Anthony’s High School in Washington, DC. In 1972 he was offered the head coaching job at Georgetown University. Thompson turned Georgetown into a national powerhouse. In 1982 he led the Hoyas to the national championship game, becoming the first African American to coach in the Final Four. The Hoyas won the championship in 1984 and were runner-up the next season. Thompson’s Hoyas won six Big East titles and he developed star players such as Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and Allen Iverson.
In 1988, Thompson coached the U.S. Olympic basketball team to a bronze medal at the Seoul Olympiad. He frequently criticized the NCAA for tighter academic standards which he felt discriminated against African Americans. Several times he walked off the court before games to protest increasing test scores for freshman students. Thompson resigned in the middle of the 1999 season due to personal problems. He was elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
GENE UPSHAW (1945– ) Football Player, Executive Director of the NFLPA, Community Activist
Born in Robstown, Texas, Upshaw attended Texas A & I University. He was named All-Pro eight times and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
Upshaw is currently the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, a post he has held since 1982. Under his leadership, the organization has expended considerable resources on education and rehabilitation for substance abuse. Upshaw is also the president of the Federation of Professional Athletes AFLCIO, as well as a member on the California Governor’s Council on Wellness and Physical Fitness. He is the coordinator for voter registration and fund-raising in Alameda County (California) and has served as the planning commissioner for that same county.
Upshaw was the recipient of the Byron (Whizzer) White Humanitarian award as voted by the NFL players in 1980. In 1982, he was presented with the A. Philip Randolph Award.
BILL WHITE (1934– ) Baseball Player, Baseball Announcer, Former National League of Professional Baseball Clubs President
William DeKova White was born in Lakewood, Florida, on January 28, 1934. He began his Major League Baseball career with the New York Giants in 1956 and spent 13 years as a player with the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Phillies. During his career, White was named to the National League All-Star team six times and won seven Gold Gloves. He retired from baseball in 1969 and in 1971 joined Phil Rizzuto as a television announcer for the New York Yankees.
On April 1, 1989, Bill White became the first African American president of the National League. He held the post until he was succeeded in 1994 by another African American, Leonard Coleman.
LENNY WILKENS (1937– ) Basketball Player, Basketball Coach
Lenny Wilkens was born in 1937 in New York City. He developed his game on the city’s streets and then starred at Providence College. Wilkens was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks of the NBA in 1960. Wilkens was named to All-Star teams and was MVP of the 1971 game while a member of the Seattle SuperSonics.
Wilkens returned to Seattle as coach in 1978 and led the Sonics to the NBA championship in 1979. He coached with the Sonics until 1986, when he left to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 1993, Wilkens was named coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and on January 6, 1995 won his 939th game, breaking Red Auerbach’s record for most victories by an NBA head coach. Wilkens coached the Hawks for seven seasons until taking a head coaching position with the Toronto Raptors before the start of the 2000-2001 season.
In 1996, Wilkens coached the men’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympiad. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach in 1998.
SERENA WILLIAMS (1981– ) Tennis Player
The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, were tennis prodigies in the mid-1990s under the coaching of their father Richard. Featured in various articles and televisions shows, Richard Williams refused to let his daughters join the professional tennis tour until he thought they were ready. In 1997, in just her fifth professional tournament, the 304th-ranked Serena showed the tennis world a glimpse of what was to come as she defeated two of the world’s top-ten players.
Serena’s success on the circuit continued, and by June 1998 she had entered the Women’s Tennis Association Top 20. Early in 1999, Serena won her first WTA tour title at the Open de Gaz de France. She went on to take three more titles that year, including her first Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open.
A victory over her sister in the finals of the 2002 French Open brought Serena her second Grand Slam singles title. With the victory, which was her 15th professional tournament title overall, Serena became the second-ranked player in the world, one spot behind her older sister. When she defeated her again at Wimbledon that same year, the sisters swapped rankings.
Serena has enjoyed success in doubles competition, as well. She has teamed with Venus to win Grand Slam titles in the French Open (1999 and 2002), the U.S. Open (1999), Wimbledon (2000 and 2002), and the Australian Open (2001). In addition to their growing number of accomplishments on the professional tour, the sisters won the Olympic gold medal for women’s doubles at the 2000 Sydney Games. Serena paired with Max Mirnyi in 1997 to win the Wimbledon mixed doubles competition.
VENUS WILLIAMS (1980– ) Tennis Player
Venus Williams made her professional debut in 1994. In her first tournament, the 14 year old Williams nearly beat Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the second highest-ranked player in the world at the time. The showing stunned both fans and media, but came as no surprise to Richard Williams, her father and coach, who had predicted that his oldest daughter would one day become the world’s greatest tennis player.
In her first few years on the pro circuit, Venus was guided along slowly, playing only a small number of tournaments. Despite her limited schedule, by 1997 Venus had reached number 64 in the world rankings. She won her first singles title on March 1, 1998 at the IGA Tennis Classic, and quickly followed it up with a victory at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Florida.
Since then, Venus has won over 20 more singles titles, including back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open championships in 2000 and 2001. She won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the women’s singles event. On February 25, 2002, Venus became the top-ranked player in the world.
Venus has combined with her sister, Serena, to claim doubles titles at each of the four Grand Slam titles: the French Open (1999 and 2002), the U.S. Open (1999), Wimbledon (2000 and 2002), and the Australian Open (2001). The team also won the Olympic gold medal for women’s doubles at the 2000 Games.
TIGER WOODS (1975– ) Golfer
Despite his age, Tiger Woods is already one of the most successful athletes in history. He was born in Long Beach, California, and was a child prodigy in golf. He became the first player to win the U.S. Amateur title three straight years, from 1994 to 1996, while a student at Stanford University.
In 1996, Woods turned professional. In the spring of 1997, Woods won the Masters Tournament, becoming the first African American to win a Grand Slam event. He has gone on to dominate the PGA Tour, winning over 53 tournaments to date, including the 2001, 2002, and 2005 Masters Tournaments, 1999, 2000, and 2006 PGA Championships, 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open Championship, and 2000, 2005, and 2006 British Open Championship.
Woods became the youngest player, and only the fifth in history, to complete the career Grand Slam of professional major championships when he won the 2000 British Open. He is already the all-time career money leader on the PGA Tour with winnings in excess of $30 million.
Wood’s personal life has had it’s highs and lows. In 2004 at the age of 28, Woods married Swedish model Eiln Nordegren. Two years later, in May 2006, he lost his father and mentor Earl Woods after a lengthy battle with prostrate cancer. The loss devastated Woods. He continues to be a major force in the game of golf. He plays the sport not to confront rivals but for the love of the game, his sense of his legacy, and always wanting to have a chance to win by doing his best.
(The table of Olympic medal winners appears in the Appendix.)
AUSTRALIAN OPEN (TENNIS)
1970: Arthur Ashe
1977: Arthur Ashe (with Tony Roche)
1957: Althea Gibson (with Shirley Fry)
1987: Zina Garrison (with Sherwood Stewart)
1998: Venus Williams (with Justin Gimelstob)
FRENCH OPEN (TENNIS)
1971: Arthur Ashe
1956: Althea Gibson
2003: Serena Williams
2005: Serena Williams
1956: Althea Gibson (with Angela Buxton)
2001: Venus Williams and Serena Williams
2003: Venus Williams and Serena Williams
HEISMAN MEMORIAL TROPHY
1961: Ernie Davis, Syracuse University, TB
1965: Michael Garrett, University of Southern California, TB
1968: O. J. Simpson, University of Southern California, TB
1972: Johnny Rodgers, University of Nebraska, FL
1974: Archie Griffin, University of Ohio State, HB
1975: Archie Griffin, University of Ohio State, HB
1976: Anthony (Tony) Dorsett, University of Pittsburgh, HB
1977: Earl Campbell, University of Texas, FB
1978: Billy Sims, University of Oklahoma, HB
1979: Charles White, University of Southern California, TB
1980: George Rogers, University of South Carolina, HB
1981: Marcus Allen, University of Southern California, TB
1983: Mike Rozier, University of Nebraska, TB
1985: Bo Jackson, Auburn University, TB
1987: Tim Brown, University of Notre Dame, FL
1988: Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State University, HB
1989: Andre Ware, University of Houston, QB
1993: Charlie Ward, Florida State University, QB
1994: Rashaan Salaam, Colorado, RB
1995: Eddie George, Ohio State, RB
1997: Charles Woodson, University of Michigan, DB/R
1998: Ricky Williams, University of Texas at Austin, TB
1999: Ron Dayne, University of Wisconsin, TB
2005: Reggie Bush, University of Southern California, QB
MS. OLYMPIA—INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF BODYBUILDERS, WOMEN’S BODYBUILDING CHAMPIONS
1983: Carla Dunlap
1990–1995: Lenda Murray
2002–2003: Lenda Murray
2004–2006: Iris Kyle
MR. OLYMPIA—INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF BODYBUILDERS, MEN’S BODYBUILDING CHAMPIONS
1967–1968: Sergio Oliva
1982: Chris Dickerson
1984–1991: Lee Haney
1998–2005: Ronnie Coleman
NATIONAL TRACK AND FIELD HALL OF FAME
1974: Ralph Boston; Lee Calhoun; Harrison Dillard; Rafer Johnson; Jesse Owens; Wilma Rudolph; Malvin Whitfield
1975: Ralph Metcalfe; Alice Coachman
1976: Robert Hayes; Hayes Jones; Heriwentha Mae Faggs
1977: Robert Beamon; Andrew W. Stanfield
1978: Tommie Smith; John Woodruff
1979: Jim Hines; William DeHart Hubbard; Edith McGuire
1980: Dave Albritton; Wyomia Tyus
1981: Willye White
1982: Willie Davenport; Eddie Tolan
1983: Lee Evans; LeRoy Walker
1984: Madeline Manning Mims; Joe Yancey
1986: Norwood Barney Ewell
1987: Eulace Peacock; Martha Watson
1988: Gregory Bell; Barbara Ferrell
1989: Milt Campbell; Edward Temple; Nell Jackson
1990: Charles Dumas
1993: Stan Wright
1994: Cornelius Johnson; Edwin Moses
1995: Valerie Brisco; Florence Griffith Joyner
1997: Evelyn Ashford; Henry Carr; Renaldo Nehemiah
1998: Greg Foster
1999: Willie Banks; Larry Ellis
2000: Chandra Cheeseborough
2001: Carl Lewis; Larry Myricks
2002: Gwen Torrence
2003: John Carlos
2004: Michael Johnson; Jackie Joyner-Kersee
2005: Earlene Brown
SULLIVAN AWARD—AMATEUR ATHLETIC UNION
1960: Rafer Johnson (track)
1961: Wilma Rudolph (track)
1981: Carl Lewis (track)
1983: Edwin Moses (track)
1986: Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track)
1988: Florence Griffith-Joyner (track)
1991: Mike Powell (track)
1993: Charlie Ward (football)
1996: Michael Johnson (track)
1998: Chamique Holdsclaw (basketball)
U.S. OPEN (TENNIS)
1968: Arthur Ashe
1957: Althea Gibson
1958: Althea Gibson
1999: Serena Williams
2000: Venus Williams
2001: Venus Williams
2002: Serena Williams
1999: Serena Williams and Venus Williams
1957: Althea Gibson (with Kurt Neilsen)
1998: Serena Williams (with Max Mirnyi)
1975: Arthur Ashe
1957: Althea Gibson
1958: Althea Gibson
2000: Venus Williams
2001: Venus Williams
2002: Serena Williams
2003: Serena Williams
2005: Venus Williams
1956: Althea Gibson (with Angela Buxton)
1957: Althea Gibson (with Darlene Hard)
1958: Althea Gibson (with Maria Bueno)
2000: Venus Williams and Serena Williams
2002: Venus Williams and Serena Williams
1988: Zena Garrison (with S. E. Stewart)
1990: Zena Garrison (with Rick Leach)
1998: Serena Williams (with Max Mirnyi)