Remembering the Rens: The first all-black pro basketball team


“The third edition of The Official NBA Encyclopedia has been released and can be ordered on or purchased in major bookstores. The following article was written exclusively for as a supplement to the book and as an example of the type of historical information presented in the new encyclopedia.

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This is the greatest basketball team you have never heard of, a team so dominant that in one season it won 112 games and lost only seven. It was a team that won championships despite never being officially accepted professionally or socially. Yet, encountering obstacles on and off the court wasn’t anything new for the New York Renaissance, the first all-black professional basketball team. All the Rens did was win, and in the process they served as catalysts for social equality.

‘They were literally pioneers and recognized that they were making a statement in front of the audiences,’ said Richard Lapchick, director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of the Sport in Society. ‘And there were some audiences that didn’t like that statement.’

Or teams, for that matter. The Rens chose to let their on-court actions do the talking. In their nearly three-decade existence, beginning in 1922, the Rens compiled a 2,588-529 record.

‘To this day, I have never seen a team play better team basketball,’ said Hall of Fame coach John Wooden, who played against the Rens when he was a member of the barnstorming Indianapolis Kautskys during the ’30s. ‘They had great athletes, but they weren’t as impressive as their team play. The way they handled and passed the ball was just amazing to me then, and I believe it would be today.'”

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