Chuck Cooper Jr. spent his life as a trailblazer, even he was drafted by the Celtics out of Duquesne in 1950 and became the first African-American in the history of the NBA. Cooper, honored by the Celtics and his son, Chuck Cooper III, as part of the team’s Heroes Among Us series during yesterday’s game against Sacramento, continued to make history when he went home to Pittsburgh. “There were death threats,” Cooper III said of when his father became Pittsburgh’s Director of Parks and Recreation, thus becoming that city’s first African-American department chief.
“The toughest times for him were on the road, when he couldn’t share a cab ride with his teammates, or eat at the restaurant with his teammates or dinner after the game. Nowadays teams hire psychologists to build team camaraderie and unity, but what really amazes me about the early pioneers like my father, and Jackie Robinson and Sweetwater Clifton was the level they performed at going through what they had to go through when they traveled.
Rondo found more well-wishers lingering outside the Sacramento locker room when he was the final player to head to the team bus. He said he still keeps in touch with those who were here with him longest and wished the team well moving forward. “I sent Avery a text after the big shot he made the other day [in Cleveland],” said Rondo. “My young guys Kelly [Olynyk], Jared [Sullinger]. A lot of these guys are my rookies. So it’s good to see these guys playing well. I wish them health and happiness and to continue to play and try to take the East.”