This Day in Black History: The first African American professional basketball team was founded

The New York Renaissance

HOUSTON — The New York Renaissance, or The New York Rens,  was established on Feb. 13, 1923 and is known as the first African American professional basketball team.

Robert Douglas, also known as the “Father of Black Professional Basketball,” coached the New York Rens from 1923-1949.

In 1923, Douglas made a deal with the owners of the Renaissance Ballroom and Casino in Harlem, New York to use their facility as a home court for the team.  In the early 1920s, the Rens played against semipro, black college and other professional basketball teams, including the New York Original Celtics.

In two seasons, the New York Rens defeated the original Celtics for the world basketball championship. In 1932 to 1933, the New York Rens collected 112 wins and eight losses in the season – winning 88 consecutive games. In 1939, the team won the first professional basketball championship against the Oshkosh All-Stars in Chicago.

After 26 years, the New York Rens disbanded and relocated to Dayton, Ohio — renamed Dayton Rens.

Due to the success of the New York Rens, other African American basketball teams were able to emerge on the court and be a part of black history.