NBA laid key foundation during 1960s amid off-court chaos
Sam Jones remembers the NBA landscape in the 1960s being only marginally different from what he had experienced growing up in America’s segregated South.
“There was a quota for Blacks when I came in 1957. There were only two players on each team that were African-Americans,” recalled Jones, a member of 10 Boston championship teams, including the eight consecutive titles the Celtics won from 1958-66.
The 1960s was the decade Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry took flight and the NBA’s second dynasty reigned on the Boston Garden’s parquet court.
It was also a time of ongoing struggle and crisis across America, when the country was forever altered on a “Bloody Sunday,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream and Black athletes raised their fists and voices in hopes of holding America to its creed.
In its infancy just 10 years prior, the NBA took its first meaningful strides in the 60s, growing from the little league that could barely get attention, to laying the framework it still stands on today — a place where athletes can be more than entertainment and use their influential platform to effect change.