Chuck Cooper was a Duquesne University basketball star who became the first African-American drafted by an NBA team when he was selected in the second round by the Boston Celtics on April 29, 1950. In 2011, the Chuck Cooper Foundation was established in tribute to his legacy.
The foundation presents its annual Leadership, Diversity and Community Service Award this week. Joining us to discuss the legacy of Chuck Cooper is his son Chuck Cooper III.
Cooper explains that, like many other young men who played basketball in Pittsburgh, his father developed his skills as an adolescent at Mellon Park in Point Breeze.
Once in college, he says, the elder Cooper had a great amount of respect for Duquesne University, in part because of an incident involving the University of Tennessee’s basketball team in the late 1940s. The Tennessee team traveled to Pittsburgh but refused to play the Dukes if Cooper would be included on the court. In the face of this prejudice, Duquesne didn’t back down, and the Dukes management sent the Tennessee team back home without a game. This gesture of respect and solidarity meant a lot to Cooper, his son explains.