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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

The NBA in Black and White

The Memoir of a Trailblazing NBA Player and Coach

by Ray Scott

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9781644211984

A memoir of hard lessons learned in the racially segregated and often outright racist NBA of the early ‘60s by celebrated NBA player and the first Black Coach of the Year, Ray Scott.

Introduced by Earl "the Pearl" Monroe

“There’s a basic insecurity with Black guys my size,” Scott writes. “We can’t hide and everybody turns to stare when we walk down the street. … Whites believe that their culture is superior to African-American culture. ... We don’t accept many of [their] answers, but we have to live with them.”

Ray Scott was part of the early wave of Black NBA players like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who literally changed how the game of professional basketball is played—leading to the tremendously popular financial blockbuster the NBA is today. Scott was a celebrated 6’9” forward/center after being chosen by the Detroit Pistons as the #4 pick of the 1961 NBA draft, and then again after he was named head coach of the Pistons in October 1972, winning Coach of the Year in the spring of 1974—the first Black man ever to capture that honor.

Scott’s is a story of quiet persistence, hard work, and, most of all, respect. He credits the mentorship of NBA player and coach Earl Lloyd, and talks about fellow Philly native Wilt Chamberlain and friends Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin, among many others. Ray has lived through one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, especially the time of assassinations of so many Black leaders at the end of the 1960s. Through it all, his voice remains quiet and measured, transcending all the sorrows with his steadiness and positive attitude. This is his story, told in collaboration with the great basketball writer, former college player and CBA coach Charley Rosen.

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9781644211984

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“This is a truly wonderful book that reveals the difficulties of the quota system and all the other obstacles that African American NBA players had to face when the league began to integrate in the mid-1950's and beyond. It also tells how Ray and many other great Black players managed to achieve the fulfillment of their respective talents. Indeed, Ray was the rare successful NBA player who became a successful NBA coach. Along the way, the plight of 'ordinary' Black citizens who succeeded and/or tragically failed in facing their own racial barriers is addressed. Above all, Ray's honesty, intelligence, and deep understanding of how social injustice influences every aspect of all our collective and individual lives, makes this narrative totally relevant today. There's enough wisdom in here to enlighten and inspire even people who have little or no interest in basketball. Incredibly powerful—a must read.”

“I first met Ray Scott in 1965 when I was a rookie player for the Detroit Pistons. I was scared to death of the challenges I faced trying to make it in the NBA, but Ray welcomed me to the team. As one of the veterans, he organized all the players to work out and prepare for camp together. It meant the world to me, and I have never forgotten how he treated me. Ray's book brought back so many good memories from my NBA days. He was and is a leader and a wonderful example of how we should all respect, get along, and love each other. Ray is a good man.”

“Ray Scott has chronicled his four-decades-long basketball odyssey beautifully. It is a thoughtful and well-written book about the transforming landscape of the NBA. He shares his firsthand knowledge and experiences and adds value to an era not so often discussed. I have been blessed to have known Ray, and blessed even more to have someone who trudged through the early days of the NBA, take me along with him for the journey.”

blog — June 13

Read an excerpt from Ray Scott’s brand new memoir with Charley Rosen, “The NBA in Black and White”

To celebrate the publication of The NBA in Black and White: The Memoir of a Trailblazing NBA Player and Coach by Ray Scott, we are proud to share an excerpt from his book, a memoir of hard lessons learned in the racially segregated NBA of the early 1960s. In this passage, Scott offers some stats about the racial demographics of the 1960s NBA as a lead-in to sharing one of his favorite memories of his fellow player, perhaps the most iconic basketball player of all time, Wilt Chamberlain.


On November 8, 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected the thirty-fifth president of the United States. In his speeches, before and after this occasion, JFK’s “New Frontier” signaled that African Americans could now be included in the American Dream. By themselves, JFK’s words and the sentiments behind them improved the quality of lives for millions of people of color by encouraging us to feel better about who we were and what we could possibly achieve.

He didn’t live long enough to legislate what he sought, so it was left to his successor, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, to fulfill JFK’s dreams.

Also, at the conclusion of the 1959–60 season, ninety-nine players appeared on the rosters of the eight NBA teams. Twenty-four of these players were African American, with the easy math coming to virtually 24 percent. However, subtracting the minuscule on-court time credited to the Celtics’ Maurice King (who only played 19 minutes in a single game), and Cal Ramsey (who played four games in St. Louis and seven with New York), the meaningful number is reduced to slightly less than 22 percent. This percentage increased every year while JFK was still in office, eventually reaching 38 percent in the year he was assassinated.

A huge step was also taken with the record number of African American players named to the 1964 Olympic team, which I believe had a great deal to do with the words and deeds of both JFK and LBJ. The 1960 team had only three Black players—Oscar Robertson, Bob Boozer, and Walt Bellamy. Four years later, Jim Barnes, Joe Caldwell, Walt Hazzard, Luke Jackson, and George Wilson constituted nearly half of the twelve-man squad.

This major change in the Olympics signaled a similar change in the NBA. In the subsequent 1964–65 season, 48.7 percent of NBA players were African Americans. This represented an increase of 10.7 percent over the previous 1963–64 campaign.

Even so, the African American presence back in that 1959–60 season was particularly revealing and important. The Celtics were in the early stage of their dynasty, yet two franchises—Cincinnati and St. Louis—demonstrated their continued resistance to this new wave of outstanding players.

Here’s a list of the total population at the time:

Boston: Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, and Maurice King
Cincinnati: Wayne Embry
Detroit: Walter Dukes, Earl Lloyd, and Shellie McMillon
Minneapolis: Elgin Baylor, Alex “Boo” Ellis, Ray Felix, Ed Fleming, and Tom Hawkins
New York: Johnny Green, Willie Naulls, and Cal Ramsey
St. Louis: Sihugo Green
Syracuse: Dick Barnett, Hal Greer, and Bob Hopkins
Philadelphia: Andy Johnson, Guy Rodgers, Woody Sauldsberry, and the most impactful rookie in the history of the NBA—Wilt Chamberlain

I was fourteen when I first saw Wilt play. He was sixteen and already an amazing player at Overbrook High School back when the games consisted of four 8-minute quarters. He was 6'11", 240 pounds at the time, and could run like the proverbial deer, jump out of the gym, and single-handedly prevented layups and short-jumpers on defense. At the other end of the court Wilt averaged well over 40 points per game, often scoring 60 or 70, with his high being 90. That’s 90 points in 32 minutes!

Yet Wilt’s offense didn’t really develop during the three years he subsequently spent at the University of Kansas. In fact, it was while he spent one year with the Globetrotters that he developed his fadeaway bank shot that made him such a dynamic scorer when he got into the NBA.

In my junior year at West Philadelphia High School, we finished the season with a record of 17–3. We would have gone undefeated but for the three losses to Wilt’s Overbrook dynasty. We seldom guarded each other, but he scored his usual 40-plus (and I was usually in foul trouble when he did), while I struggled to put up double figures.

My all-time favorite memory of Wilt took place when I was seventeen and riding my bike to the Haddington Recreation Center to see if there was anything happening on the basketball court. Wilt was nineteen, was playing at Kansas, and was already a much-celebrated All-American. I found him on the court engaged in a solo workout. I was thrilled when he invited me to join him. For what seemed like hours we shot, retrieved misses, passed to each other, and ran some sprints (when Wilt always left me behind).

After we were done, I was ready to bike my way back home, but Wilt had another idea. He put my bike in the trunk of his car and said, “I’m driving you home.”

This meant a lot to me. He saw me as a real player but more importantly as a person. Indeed, his respect helped me to increase my own self-respect.


Philly native JOHN RAYMOND "RAY" SCOTT's college career began at the University of Portland, and he was chosen as the 4th pick in the 1961 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He spent six years with the Pistons, as a stand-out rebounder and deadly shooter from the perimeter, and another five years playing for other teams. Then in October 1972, Scott was promoted from Assistant to Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons, thanks in part to the strong support from retiring coach Earl Lloyd who, a decade earlier had scouted Scott and recommended that he be the Pistons top pick. Two years later he was named NBA Coach of the Year, the first African-American to win the coveted award. From 1976 to 1979, Scott was Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Eastern Michigan University. Today, Ray lives with his family in Eastern Michigan, not far from Detroit. This is his first book. 

CHARLEY ROSEN is one of the most respected writers of books on basketball, including both fiction like NYT Notable Book The House of Moses All-Stars, and nonfiction like his telling of the Jack Molinas story in The Wizard of Odds. He has also been a sports commentator, at FOXSports.com and HoopsHype.com. He lives in Woodstock, N.Y.


Philly native John Raymond “Ray” Scott's college career began at the University of Portland, and he was chosen as the 4th pick in the 1961 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He spent six years with the Pistons, as a stand-out rebounder and deadly shooter from the perimeter, and another five years playing for other teams. Then in October 1972, Scott was promoted from Assistant to Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons, thanks in part to the strong support from retiring coach Earl Lloyd who, a decade earlier had scouted Scott and recommended that he be the Pistons top pick. Two years later he was named NBA Coach of the Year, the first African-American to win the coveted award. From 1976 to 1979, Scott was Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Eastern Michigan University. Today, Ray lives with his family in Eastern Michigan, not far from Detroit. This is his first book. Charley Rosen is one of the most respected writers of books on basketball, including both fiction like NYT Notable Book The House of Moses All-Stars, and nonfiction like his telling of the Jack Molinas story in The Wizard of Odds. He has also been a sports commentator, at FOXSports.com and HoopsHype.com. He lives in Woodstock, N.Y.