One of the cases in the onsite exhibit takes a look at the last seventy years through the lens of basketball and race, drawing together stories about leading figures of the game to address the African American experience and the way in which athletics, more broadly, can provide a platform for discussing issues of race, including the recent movement #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreathe.
Unlike major league baseball, which saw the color line broken by one man, Jackie Robinson in 1947, professional basketball saw multiple teams recruit African American players. On the evening of Oct. 31, 1950, Earl Lloyd made his NBA debut when the Capitols opened their season on the road against the Rochester Royals at Edgerton Park Arena. It is important to note however, that African American players had been playing professionally in different leagues for decades prior. And, in 1946, Royals coach Les Harrison added William “Dolly” King to the roster. During his one season with the Royals of the NBL (predecessor to the NBA), King proved himself to be a powerhouse athlete and an important asset for the team.
This YouTube video “Maurice Stokes Benefit Game 1959 in Monticello, New York” posted by user Fred Cervantez shows a portion of the benefit game for Maurice Stokes. This game was held in 1959 in Monticello, New York to help raise money for the care of the Rochester Royal’s player, Maurice Stokes.
Bob Carter’s article “Stokes’ Life A Tale of Tragedy and Friendship” on ESPN Classic details the impact that Rochester Royal’s player Maurice Stokes had on the team and all those who knew him. Carter delved into Stokes’ background and addressed how he died and how those who knew him commemorated his life.
The blog post “Kings of the Royal Court: Top 6 Eras of the Royals/Kings” ranks a list of the Royals and Kings best team duos and time periods historically. Specifically, the 5th ranked and 1st ranked entries delve into the Rochester Royals, examining the dynamics between Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes (‘Big Mo’) and the history behind the Rochester Royals respectively.