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Today in Black Sports History: Feb. 13, 1923

By Kira Nicole Grant, Staff Reporter

Photo courtesy of the Black Fives Foundation

Robert “Bob” L. Douglas, known as “The Father of Black Professional Basketball,” hailing from Saint Kitts, British West Indies, founded and owned America’s first all-black professional basketball team on Feb. 13, 1923.

The team officially named after the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance played their first official game on Nov. 3, 1923. The Renaissance Ballroom would serve as the New York Renaissance’s official home court. 

The Rens competed in 2,699 games from 1923 to 1949, winning 2,318 games with head coach Robert Douglas. 

The Rens competed against and dominated men’s basketball teams across the nation, whether they were black or white. While playing basketball, during the troublesome Jim Crow era, the team encountered the misfortunes of discrimination. The Rens often slept on their team bus when they were banned from hotels due to segregation and ate cold food when restaurants refused to serve them. 

Despite their obstacles, during the 1932-1933 season, the Rens won 88 consecutive contests, the longest standing record by any professional team.

The Rens accomplished their greatest goal of all in 1939 when they won their first championship in the World Professional Basketball Tournament.

In 1963, The Naismith Basketball Association inducted the NY RENS into the Hall of Fame class. 

Douglas was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972.