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Bob Douglas: a legend dies
By Howie Evans

Robert L. Douglas, affectionately known as "Bob" — and the first Black individual to be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame, died this past Monday morning in his West135th Street apartment.

The man who pioneered the growth of professional basketball in the world, and whose Harlem Renaissance teams, blazed trails for the Russells, Chamberlains, Jabbar's, and others, died quietly in his sleep around 2:30 A.M. Monday morning. His wife of 18 years, Cora, was at his side when the moment came to meet his Maker.

"He was in bed most of the day," said Mrs. Douglas. "He seemed to be very tired and very nervous. He wasn't active at all during the day," Mrs. Douglas sadly recalled. "He wasn't talking at all," she continued. "Once I asked him a question and he didn't even answer. So I asked him again and he just looked at me. He seemd to be very, very tired.

Mr. Douglas was not a native born American. He came to this country in June of 1901. Virtually penniless, Mr. Douglas found a job on Columbus Avenue at West 84th Street as a doorman. "I wanted to run the elevator, but I wasn't old enough," he once said.

The legendary sports and entertainment impressario, was paid $4 dollars a week, working 8 to 8 on his first job in the new country. "I got a half hour for lunch, a half hour for dinner, and I was off every third Thursday and every third Sunday."

Mr. Douglas learned very quickly how to survive in the big city. He got a small apartment on West 52nd Street where the rent was $3 dollars a week. Mr. Douglas quickly recruited a [[roommate?]] and they split the rent down the
dollar and half a week. He
a week in tips.

"that was a lot of money in those days."

Born on the British West Indian Island of St. Christopher, Mr. Douglas didn't venture up to Harlem until 1903 and didn't see his first basketball game until 1905. "Where I was working at the time, one of the boys took me to see a game on 59th Street where we had to walk up 5 flights of stairs to the gym. I THOUGHT IT WAS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD. That's when I started with basketball. You couldn't keep me off the court after that."

Admittedly, Mr. Douglas wasn't much of a basketball player or an athlete for that matter. Back at home in St. Kitts, Soccer and Cricket were the major sports. "I wasn't very good in either,' claimed Mr. Douglas. "But I was a very good swimmer, a very good swimmer."

His first basketball team came out of an athletic club he formed which was made up of mostly West Indian boys. They played Cricket for the most part, and most of them had never seen a basketball game, or played the sport. The very first game Mr. Douglas ever coached lasted exactly 2 minutes at the old Manhattan Casino.

In 1922, the Renaissance was built on its present site of 138th Street and 7th Avenue. At the time, Mr. Douglas had a team, but the 134th Street Clubhouse where they practiced and played was not what Mr. Douglas had in mind for his dream. So Mr. Douglas convinced the owner, Leon Roche to let his team play games in the famed dance hall on Sunday evenings. He already had a name for his team, but realizing how good it would be for advertising, he consented to let his team play under the name of the Renaissance. The rest is history.

On November 30th, 1923, the Harlem Renaissance made their debut. Their opponents were a classy local team by the name of the Collegiates. The Rens won 28-22. They never lost many games after that. Organized and playing under the leadership of Mr. Douglas, The Rens ran up an amazing total of 2318 wins as against only 381 losses. They played 7 days and nights a week, often playing 2 and 3 games a day.

The Rens, for a period of 15 years, were considered the best basketball team in action. However, there was no official tournament, and Mr. Douglas wanted just one thing. A tournament where his Rens would get the opportunity to prove they indeed were the best.

And so his wish came true on March 28, [[?9]] in Chicago, where a 8 team Pro [[cutoff]]rnament was held to decide the First[[cutoff]]ld Championship of Professional Bas[[cutoff]]ll.

[[3 images]]

[[image - Bob Douglas]]

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