Sports History On This Day: March 28

March 28, 1939 – The New York Renaissance Big Five basketball team won the very first pro basketball championship title. This group of hoopsters from Harlem was an all-black team of professional players that toured the country taking on all opponents.

First established in February of 1923 when the team’s founder Bob Douglas worked out an agreement with New York’s Renaissance Ballroom and Casino to play games at the complex and afterward a dance would be held. It worked out well at first as the team played mostly home games against local amateur opponents but after a few years, the crowds sizes started to shrink.

In the late 1920s, the Rens went on a barnstorming tour across the country and it brought them national recognition. On one of these tours, they challenged and defeated the top all-white team of the era the Original Celtics bring even more notoriety as a great basketball team.

For this championship game, the 118th played by the Rens on the season, the Big Five overcame their opponents the Oshkosh, Wisconsin Stars. The game was played at the Chicago Stadium in a tournament put together by Arch Ward and Eddie Cochrane of the Chicago Tribune to help determine who the top professional team was.

The World Professional Championship tournament invited the top 6 teams the promoters could find. In the field with the Rens and Oshkosh, were the Harlem Globetrotters; Clarksburg, Virginia Oilers; New York Yankees; Sheboygan Redskins. The grand prize for the Champs was $1000 cash.

To learn more about the New York Renaissance team check out some of the episodes that SHN podcaster Rick Loayza has done of the team in his Basketball History 101 podcast.

To find more great daily sports history make sure to check out the Sports Jersey Dispatch and Pigskin Dispatch.

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