March 28, 2009

Remembering the Rens, the all black professional basketball team in NY

The New York Renaissance Team

On 28 MAR 1939, the Renaissance team defeated the all white Oshkosh All Stars in the World Professional Basketball Tournament at the Chicago Coliseum. This event took place several years before the formation of the NBA. 

The Rens, founded in 1923, were led by future Hall of Famers, William “Pop” Gates and Charles “Tarzan” Cooper. The squad also featured John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs, who has been a finalist in consideration for the Hall of Fame in recent years. Isaacs invented the pick-and-roll play, which is now a staple of nearly every basketball offense. 

In the midst of March Madness, it is worth pausing to remember one of the most overlooked chapters in Black history and American sports history. The Rens dominated professional basketball in their time. They went 2588-539 during their 26 years, a remarkable record. Imagine your favorite NBA team averaging 69 wins a season for 26 years. 
Sounds like madness, doesn’t it?


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