From 'Bottom of Totem Pole,' NBA Begins Its Climb in 1950s

Johnny Smith

Posted October 20, 2021

External Article:

Johnny Smith, the Julius C. "Bud" Shaw Professor of Sports History and an associate professor in the School of History and Sociology, was quoted in the article, "From 'bottom of totem pole,' NBA begins its climb in 1950s," published October 20, 2021 on

An excerpt:

“But if you go back to the ‘50s and the ’60s, this was a moment of the civil rights movement, when Black athletes were breaking through, integrating professional sports leagues — the NBA, the NFL, you go back to Jackie Robinson and Major League Baseball — and they became symbols of racial pride, symbols of Black achievement and that mattered to folks in the Black community. They could look at someone who had broken a barrier, who had disproven the mythologies around white supremacy.”