As Earl Lloyd and many other members of the 1946 Parker-Gray Dream Team watched, the 2007-08 T.C. Williams Titans took off their warm-ups to reveal blue and gray uniforms much like the ones worn back in their day.
Their names and numbers were on the back of the jerseys, just as they were then. And before the game began, the Titans presented Lloyd with a jersey bearing #5, which he wore when he played on those unbeatable teams at Parker-Gray High School in Alexandria. Lloyd, the first African-American to play in the National Basketball Association, was home to celebrate the naming of the new basketball court at the new high school for him.
Before the game began Friday night, which was the second of two in the inaugural Tip Off Classic between T.C., Bishop Ireton, Episcopal and St. Stephens, Lloyd met with members of the T.C. girls and boys basketball teams. In 1995, when they invited me to T.C. Williams, I wasnt sure I wanted to come, Lloyd told the players. Things were a lot different when I was in high school here. The school system was segregated. Black and white students werent allowed to play on the same team or to play against each other.
While many things were not good, one of the great losses from that time was Parker-Gray High School. We had a group of dedicated teachers who helped us succeed and a community that supported them and us. Not everything has gotten better, Lloyd said.
One student asked Lloyd how many points he scored in the NBA. Why is that important, he asked. Basketball is a team sport and everybody has a role. My role was not about scoring.
It isnt just important to know what your role is but to accept that role. When kids today talk about not getting along with their coach, I just dont understand that. I mean, how can you not get along with the person who decides who plays?
Lloyd mentored Jim Lewis, the varsity girls basketball coach at T.C. I guess I first met Earl when I was about 12 years old, playing ball on the playground, Lewis said. In those days, NBA players didnt have much to do in the off season so Earl used to come home to Alexandria and substitute teach at Parker-Gray. He took an interest in me and helped me along as I played in high school. Then when I was looking at colleges, he talked to the coach at West Virginia University and I got a scholarship, Lewis said.
What did Lewis learn from Lloyd that he tries to pass on to his own teams? I learned so many things from Earl that it is difficult to pick only one. I guess, though, I try to teach the kids that success really begins with respect: respect for yourself, your coaches, your parents and your teammates, he said.