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Wilt Chamberlain, John Chaney and more in Philadelphia black basketball hall of fame

The city now has a home to honor its black basketball icons

As far as Delgreco Wilson, Ray Scott and Maurice Howard are concerned, the creation of the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame is a concept that has become reality.

The recent induction of its inaugural class featured 18 former Philadelphia basketball players, coaches and a veteran sports writer. The brainchild of Wilson, managing director of Black Cager LLC, a sports-focused print and digital media company based in the Delaware Valley, the enshrinement is the beginning of a project aimed at honoring the best African-American players ever from the City of Brotherly Love.

“It’s something that should’ve been done a long time ago,” said Wilson. “The history of the black basketball player in Philadelphia is rich and storied. People know about the greatest player who ever played the game, Wilt Chamberlain, being from Philadelphia. But there are so many other outstanding players, some of whom because of racism never got the opportunity to go to college or play professionally. That’s why, with the help of people such as Ray Scott and Mo Howard [who were part of the screening process to select the initial class] we now have the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame.

“When I thought about doing this, I looked around and saw that there was a Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. I kept hearing stories about the great players who came from Philadelphia and I said, there should be one for black basketball players.”

Philadelphia tribune Sports Writer Donald Hunt, Anastasia Lewis-Dodson, the oldest daughter of the late Alonzo Lewis, and Temple University head coach Fran Dunphy were part of the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural induction ceremony.

Abdul R. Sulayman/Tribune Chief Photographer

The inaugural class is loaded with legendary talent. It includes longtime Philadelphia Tribune sportswriter and author Donald Hunt, who spearheaded a drive to get Chamberlain on two U.S. Postal Service stamps.

“They put me in the inaugural class and there were great players like Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe who didn’t make it,” said Scott, a former West Philadelphia High School standout who played with Monroe as a member of the Baltimore Bullets. In 1974, while with the Detroit Pistons, Scott was the first African-American to be named NBA Coach of the Year. “For him, a [Naismith Basketball] Hall of Famer not to make the inaugural list, you know you had to have some outstanding talent.”

Temple University head coach Fran Dunphy recognized the roots of Philadelphia basketball laid out by the inaugural class.

“When they played, it was a different era,” said Dunphy. “There were many obstacles in their way. They laid the foundation and began a legacy that is clearly going on today. The area is full of talent. There is talent playing professionally. Honoring them is something I’m very proud of doing.”

Wilson said he is in the process of securing a permanent home for the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame. He envisions a complex that will be must-see stop for tourists and basketball lovers.

“This is our opportunity to be the gatekeeper,” said Howard, a former standout at St. Joseph’s Prep and the University of Maryland before playing in the NBA. “I’m proud to say that I was a Philly guard. It meant something to be called one then. It means something to be called one now. We can control what is being said about our legacy. We are the gatekeepers of information. We have a story to tell and finally, it’s going to be told correctly.”

Daryl Bell is the assistant news editor and columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. He's a veteran journalist who has covered every major sport, and many minor ones.