What does basketball have to do with the Harlem Renaissance? A lot, actually. When Black basketball players were forbidden from playing in white leagues, they formed their own teams and played in the stately ballrooms of Harlem.
Where did I learn this? From the clothing company Adidas, of all places. Here’s what they shared on their website:
1920: When Jim Crow laws banned African Americans from playing in white basketball leagues, a group of locals united by the love of the game and community formed the first basketball team in Harlem.
Harlem’s basketball players trained in ballrooms, developing a style of play that reflected their ability and creativity. Built on a mastery of pace and grace, their contests set the tone for the vibrant jazz concerts that followed, where Harlemites were encouraged to bring their dance floor A-game, spawning America’s first true dance: The Lindy Hop.
The Harlemites proved they had one of the greatest teams in the world. To take a stance, players removed the word “colored” from their championship jackets, making the statement legend.
Harlem was not only the true epicenter of basketball, it was a cultural example of the power and influence of community.
To honor these pioneering athletes, Adidas has come out with a line of uniforms from that era. I really like the patches on the side that say “CBC” for “Celebrate Black Culture”!
Learn more here:
On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Remembering the Rens (NBA.com).
Thanks for the heads up, Sing Lim, all the way from Singapore! I know you are filling your shopping cart as I write this.