St. John’s Basketball Honors City Legends In Black History Month Initiative

Big East Conference unveils Black Fives Foundation partnership for February

The history of basketball is not one that begins and ends with the National Basketball Association. For about four decades, racial segregation was just as prevalent on the hardwood as it was on the streets. African Americans were forced to form their own basketball teams, nicknamed “Black Fives.”

The Black Fives era played a pivotal role in the sport’s development, exposing many people to the game of basketball and strengthening its popularity. Additionally, these teams played with unique skill as well as athleticism, incorporating new styles of play that revolutionized the standards of professional play.

This February, the Big East has partnered with the Black Fives Foundation, a nonprofit public charity that seeks to honor and preserve this history while educating people on the pre-NBA history of African American basketball. Across 22 games this month, Big East basketball teams will wear special warmup shirts featuring the name and logo of a Black Fives team. Meanwhile, coaches will wear commemorative pins and in-arena videos will inform fans of the initiative.

St. John’s Men’s Basketball is honoring the St. Christopher Club through this partnership. This African American basketball team was founded in 1907 and initially played at St. Philip’s Church in Midtown Manhattan. Known as the “St. C’s,” they won four Colored Basketball World’s Championships in the 1910s, but their impact expanded beyond the court. During this decade, the congregation moved to Harlem and played a key role in the cultural transformation of the neighborhood into what it is today.

Meanwhile, Women’s Basketball is representing the Younger Set Club, an all-Black women’s athletic and social club. Founded in 1912, Younger Set played at East 134th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem. They are said to have hosted some of the best female talent in the city, according to the Black Fives Foundation.

Though the Black Fives era is relatively unknown by most people, initiatives such as this partnership between the Big East Conference and the Black Fives Foundation can provide this education with a great platform. In teaching the general public about these pioneers of basketball, a greater context could be provided for how the sport has developed into what it is today.