Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer

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9781557288479: Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer
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John B. McLendon was the last living protégé of basketball’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith, and one of the “top ten basketball coaches of the century” in Billy Packer’s opinion. Breaking Through, the first biography of this remarkable man, is the uplifting story of a champion’s struggle for equality in 1940s and ‘50s America, when one coach refused to accept that teams at traditionally black colleges like North Carolina College and Tennessee State were unable to achieve national prominence.
McLendon’s creative and courageous efforts to “break through” the color lines of institutional racism include the famous “secret game” between his North Carolina College players and the Duke University Medical School in 1944, ten years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. McLendon taught his players, including such NBA standouts as Sam Jones, Dick Barnett, and John Barnhill, that dignity and self-respect were more important than the numbers on a scoreboard, though he nonetheless achieved a 76 percent winning mark over a twenty-five-year collegiate coaching career. He was an early pioneer of game preparation, conditioning, the fast break, the full-court press, and a two corner offense that became the seed for Dean Smith’s famous four corners, and he won eight CIAA titles at North Carolina College between 1941 and 1952.
McLendon’s far-reaching list of firsts includes being the first coach to win three consecutive national titles (Tennessee State, 1957–59), the first black coach of an integrated professional team (the ABL’s Cleveland Pipers), the first black coach at a predominately white college (Cleveland State), the first black coach in the ABA, the first black coach to publish a basketball book, the first black coach on the Olympic staff, the first black coach inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame . . . the list goes on. McLendon’s amazing career culminated in his efforts as a basketball ambassador; he traveled to fifty-eight countries, teaching the fundamentals of the game and the value of sportsmanship, and many believe he contributed more to the proliferation of basketball worldwide than any other individual.
Breaking Through is both a history lesson and an inspiration to any player, coach, or spectator who has ever known the transcendent powers of a game.

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From the Back Cover:

"The best and greatest coach of all time."
--Bill Russell, NBA Hall of Famer

"The Father of Black Basketball, he was the godfather to the young black athlete. I saw him as a true caretaker of the sport."
--Julius Erving, NBA Hall of Famer

"A must read for everyone who loves the history of basketball. John McLendon did for the court game what Jackie Robinson did for baseball, only Coach John's efforts as a civil rights pioneer cover seven decades."
--Marty Blake, NBA director of scouting.

"His genius never failed to amaze me.... John McLendon was an American treasure who made his game and his country a better place for all of us."
--Billy Packer, CBS basketball analyst

"John McLendon paved the way for the wave of minority coaches and administrators in intercollegiate and professional sports today. His legacy will be apparent to anyone who reads this story of a great gentleman's life."
Mike Cleary, executive director of the National Association of College Directors of Athletics

"Coach Mac was ahead of his time as a coach, and he was an outstanding human being. Breaking Through will teach readers something about adversity and how to prevail, about what it means to earn respect at the highest level."
--Earl Lloyd, NBA Hall of Famer and first African-American to play in the NBA

"He was a great inspiration to all of us who were fortunate to have success in the game. I've always respected him for what he had to persevere through."
--Wayne Embry, NBA Hall of Famer and first African American general manager in sports

"Every single NBA player is connected to this man in some way. Coach McLendon is the root from which great players have evolved."
--Kenny Smith, analyst, Inside the NBA

"This book is an essential read for all people interested in sports, particularly the basketball devotee."
--Joe A. Buckhalter, Jr., former NBA player and Harlem Globetrotter

From the Inside Flap:

Winner, William Rockhill Nelson Award

"The Father of Black Basketball, [McLendon] was the godfather to the young black athlete. I saw him as a true caretaker of the sport."

--Julius Irving, NBA Hall of Famer

"Breaking Through will teach readers something about adversity and how to prevail, about what it means to earn respect at the highest level."

--Earl Lloyd, NBA Hall of Famer and the first African

American to play in the NBA

"This richly detailed, carefully researched, and affectionate biography is a positive step in reemphasizing McClendon's rightful place in basketball--and sports--history."

--Booklist

"The research Katz has done for Breaking Through is outstanding . . . dramatic and exciting."

--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Finally, a book has been written that takes a complete look at McLendon's life on and off the court. . . . The book is both a history lesson and an inspiration to any player, coach, or spectator who has ever known the transcendent powers of a game. . . . Katz gives incredible insight on a pioneer."

--Blackathlete.com

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