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12 surprising things I learned from “The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History”

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1. Although Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton became the first African-Americans in the NBA in 1950, the distinction of being the league’s first nonwhite player oddly enough belongs to a 5 ft. 7 in. Japanese-American, Wataru “Wat” Misaka. After leading the University of Utah to NCAA and NIT titles, he played three games with the New York Knicks in 1947, when the NBA was known as the Basketball Association of America.

2 .The Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry is often credited with reviving the NBA in the 1970s, as their teams met about 40 times. The frequency of these showdowns, however, pales in comparison with Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell duels, in which the two centers went mano a mano 142 times between 1959 and 1969.

3. Despite their fierce on-court rivalry, Russell and Chamberlain actually were quite chummy otherwise. Chamberlain hosted Russell at Thanksgiving six times and Russell would invite Chamberlain to his Boston home, where they would enjoy Russell’s model trains.

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