By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: March 11, 2009

CALIFORNIA — From the astute representative from Georgia, Julian Bond, to the confident senator from Massachusetts, Edward Brooke, to the proud Senator from California, Barbara Lee, to the former Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, African Americans have stated their agenda.

We are now hearing the resounding call of “THE TORCH IS BEING PASSED.”

Back in 1965, each (NBA) National Basketball Association team had quotas of no more then three African American players. Bill Russell (Boston Celtics), Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia Warriors, 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers), and Nate Thurmond (San Francisco Warriors) were the only known African American superstars at that time.

In the 1970s, the New York Knicks were the only team in the NBA with a majority African American roster. African American stars began to bloom all over the country with Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Willis Reed (New York Knicks), Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld (Baltimore Bullets), “Doctor J” Julius Erving (New Jersey Nets-Philadelphia76ers).

The 1980s sprouted Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, and James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers), Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) and Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks).

The 1990s germinated Shaquille O’Neal (Orlando Magic, Lakers, and Phoenix Suns), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), and Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls).

At the turn of the century there was Allen Iverson (Detroit Pistons), and Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs), Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers).

Lastly, Americans cast their eyes on the “Three Amigos” of the World Champion Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.

There are 75% of African American players now on the professional basketball courts in America. Because of that increasing number Black, Asian, and Latino children are now wearing jerseys with Black athletes’ numbers.

These young Americans are mimicking their favorite players’ basketball moves on the court. These multi-ethnic and multi-cultured children hope to play on a NBA team someday.

In 1965, not a single professional football team had an African American quarterback. It is interesting to note that four years ago two Black quarterbacks: Michael Vick (Atlanta Falcons) and Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles) played for the NFC Title

This year (2009), 11 all-star quarterbacks led their teams to victories and playoffs. A Black Quarterback returned to the Super Bowl almost twenty years later. Super Bowl winner and Most Valuable Player, Doug Williams (Washington Redskins), gave the baton to Steve McNair and McNabb.

Last year, Quarterback Warren Moon (Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, and Seattle Seahawks) was the first African American quarterback to enter the Football Hall of Fame. The door to the Hall of Fame is now open to Black quarterbacks, Warren Moon passed the torch.

In 1965 not one African American donned the head set on the sidelines as head coach of an (NFL) National Football League team. In the 1990’s owner Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders took that step and selected one of their own to break the color barrier, Art Shell, who played tackle for the Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders.

THE TORCH HAS BEEN PASSED to Michael Singletary (San Francisco 49ers), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears), and the now retired Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts), who became the first African American to win the Super Bowl.

In the last four years, there have been three Black head coaches leading their respective teams to the Super Bowl, and Mike Tomlin guided the Pittsburgh Steelers to their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

In 1965, not a single African America had a head coaching job in (MLB) Major League Baseball. This year (2009) there will be four Black skippers in baseball dugouts.

THE TORCH HAS BEEN PASSED from the tough times of Jackie Robinson (Brooklyn Dodgers) breaking the color barrier these current Black managers Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds and Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers.

In 1971 the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded an all Black team in the playoffs and World Series. Note that Clarence “Cito” Gaston, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, is the only one to win the World Series.

He accomplished this feat in consecutive years (1992 – 93). The baseball intelligencia has never given him the compliments or credit for this outstanding feat.

In 1965, one Black man had laced up his skates, put on a black and gold sweater, and played in the (NHL) National Hockey League. That was Willie O’Ree who played for the Boston Bruins 1960-61.

Now there are 19 Black stars in the NHL. The 1970s and 1980s showcased Grant Fuhr, goalie for the Edmonton Oilers. During their reign of scoring terror, the Oilers started the new Black player surge.

Fuhr, with number 99, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, together won four Stanley Cups. Now Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames has taken the hockey mantle.

Also senior citizens Donald Brashear (Washington Capitols) and Mike Grier (San Jose Sharks) now skate with the young kids like Nigel Dawes (Phoenix Coyotes) and Joel Ward (Nashville Predators) as part of this new Black wave.

Looking at the tennis courts we recall Althea Gibson was the first Black female Tennis champion in the late 1940s and middle 1950s. Gibson PASSED THE TORCH to the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. They have often expressed this gratitude to Ms. Gibson.

Gibson was never given the admiration and adjuration from White American tennis fans as the Williams sisters receive today. The Williams sisters have finally hit double digits in Grand Slam events without the input of the tennis intelligentsia.

The motivation to be champions was guided and provided by their father Richard Williams, and both came through with flying colors. Serena and Venus can and will pursue different careers unlike, Ms Gibson. In the men’s field Arthur Ashe made a way for MaliVai Washington and Thomas Blake.

Harold Dunovant, and Charlie Sifford drove the fairways, Brothers Lee Elder and Calvin Peete walked the links. Mr. Elder PASSED THE TORCH to Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. Before Tiger Woods retires he most likely will break every golf record in the history books.

His absence from the tour created a drop in attendance and television ratings. This proves that Americans enjoy watching the best golfer in the world no matter what nationality he/she maybe.

In the Future, Woods will pass the torch to a young talented Black disabled man Kevin Hall who is deaf and plays a mean game of links.

African Americans have progressed in sports as well as in life in America. Time will tell how much further Blacks will continue this progress in this wonderful country.