While the vast majority (nearly 75 percent) of the NBA today is composed of black men, that wasn’t always the case. In 1950, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton became the first black man to sign with an NBA team when he inked a deal with the New York Knicks.
Sweetwater wasn’t only the first under contract in the league, but he was the NBA’s first black star. Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd both entered the NBA as a function of the 1950 NBA Draft, but neither were big personalities nor big performers. Clifton was a big-time talent and a born showman, having entered the league after playing with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Regarding his unique nickname, Clifton told a reporter,
”I got the name when I was a kid, because all I ever wanted to drink was soda pop. You know, sweet water.”
Where does Sweetwater rank on the all-time list of great sports nicknames?
Origin Announce Their Spring 2017 Roster
Once Origen announced their roster for the 2017 Spring Split, it became immediately apparent that the team would struggle to stay in the EU LCS. The roster included Satorius, Wisdom, NaeHyun, Tabzz and Hiiva.
sOAz and Amazing Leave Origen
xPeke was left as the last man standing from the original roster. sOAz and Amazing left the squad after becoming dismayed with the team's performance.
soaz and amazing leave
xPeke Steps In As AD Carry
The team's new bot lane duo simply did not work out. Forg1ven left the squad mid-split, with no replacement available, xPeke stepped into the ADC role. His infamous play is a harrowing memory for all Origen fans.
It all started when xPeke left Fnatic…
Origen was founded by xPeke in 2014 after he left Fnatic following the World Championship. With no prior experience running a team, nobody could have predicted just how far the team would go.
Origen Become the EU LCS’ Worst Ever Team
Without a single series win to their name, Origen's 2017 Spring Split roster will go down in history as the EU LCS's worst ever team.
Zven and Mithy Leave to Join G2 eSports
The dagger in the back of Origen. The team's bot lane duo departed the team unexpectedly ahead of the 2016 Summer Split.
Origin Heartbreak featured
Julius Erving – “Dr. J”
Nicknames don't get much cooler than "Dr. J", that's basically the pinnacle of nicknames. Everyone knows you're cool, and probably really good at basketball, both of which Julius Erving was. And for what's it's worth, his afro was as cool as his nickname. (Source: Twitter)
Fred McGriff – “Crime Dog”
I absolutely love everything about Fred McGriff's nickname of "Crime Dog", because I absolutely have no idea what it's even in reference to. Crime Dog? Like what the hell does that even mean? My response is who cares, because it's freaking awesome. (Source: Twitter)
Gordie Howe – “Mr. Hockey”
That's right, I'm showing hockey some love here. Now I'm not really a Redwings fan at all, and Gordie Howe was way before my time, but I mean come on, he has an awesome nickname. "Mr. Hockey" is the stuff of a legend, they literally made him the face of hockey because he was so unbelievable at it. (Source: Twitter)
NighT – Probability: High
One of the most talked about possible moves, NighT could soon find himself on another team. The reigning EU Rookie of the Split, NighT is highly sought after as a mid laner. Do not be surprised to find him on a team such as Team Liquid when the next split begins.
Adrian – Probability: Moderate
Once an All-Star for the NA LCS, Adrian now finds himself as a free agent after his departure from Team Liquid. While the talent is undeniable, many of Adrian's pocket power picks are currently out of the meta, and rumoured team issues may cause other teams to think twice before signing him.
Probability: Low A mid season slump found Rekkles pushed to the edge of retirement or leaving Fnatic once again. Once one to the more talked about players looking to move, with Fnatic's late season surge any type of trade or retirement seems highly unlikely.
LirA – Probability: Low
The most valuable member of EnVyUs's line-up , any rebuild will likely be built around him. If he didn't count as an import, LirA's value would be through the roof as one of the best junglers in NA. With limited teams that have import slots open and his immense value to NV, do not be surprised in LirA stays put.
Piglet – Probability: Moderate
After switching from ADC to mid, Piglet had an up and down season in his new role. For the upcoming split, Piglet may retire or be replaced by another import in the mid lane. If he stays with Team Liquid for next split, do not be surprised to see him move back to his former role of ADC.
FeniX – Probability: Low
The mid laner for Gold Coin United has been regarded as possibly the NA CS's best player this split. After GCU's failure to reach the LCS, he could be an option for teams looking to upgrade their mid, and who have an import slot available. Outside of Team Liquid and NV however, options are limited.
Ninja – Probability: High
Likely the most criticized member of Team EnVyUs, much of the blame for their struggles this split has fallen on Ninja. Currently occupying a valuable import slot, his performance has likely not warranted him staying with the team. Do not be surprised to see him replaced very soon.
Clifton was born in Chicago in 1922, and he played college ball at Xavier University before joining the Globetrotters. The 6’7’’ power forward and center played seven seasons in the league, averaging a solid 10 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.
Sweetwater did his best work during the 1954-1955 season, when he averaged 13.1 points per game. He made the NBA All-Star team during the 1956-57 season in which he averaged 10.7 points per game. The Knicks made the Finals three times during his career. After a season with the Detroit Pistons, unhappy about his playing time, Sweetwater left the league and went back to playing entertainment ball for the Globetrotters.
Clifton was a hometown hero in Chicago, where he had played at DuSable High School. He returned to the area after a knee injury ended his playing days with the Globetrotters. Lacking any sort of pension from the NBA, Sweetwater drove a cab until his death in 1990 at age 65.
The former New York Knick actually died at the wheel of his cab of an apparent heart attack outside Chicago’s Union Station. Already a member of the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, Clifton was made a member of the NBA Hall of Fame in 2014.
Here’s what his Knicks teammate, Willie Naulls had to say about him at his Hall of Fame induction.
“Nat ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton was a giant of a man physically who was as gentle, compassionate and empathic as anyone I met during my professional basketball career.
He was a pioneer in the integration of the NBA and his intestinal fortitude paved the way for those of us who would follow, even when he had little power of voice and choice.
When I was traded to the Knicks three months into my NBA career, ‘Sweets’ welcomed me with open arms and we discussed what it had meant to be the only, or one of the few, African-American in the league – him with the Knicks and me with the St. Louis Hawks.”