The New York Renaissance was an All-Black professional basketball squad, established in 1923 that became a dominant force in the game. On this day in 1939, the Rens became the first all-Black basketball squad to win a world championship.
Known as the father of Black basketball, Robert “Bob” Douglas, a native of St. Kitts, owned a pair of Black pro teams in the ’20’s. Douglas, in search of a home for his Spartan Braves squad, struck a deal with a real estate developer to hold games at the New York Renaissance Casino and Ballroom. The ballroom became the Rens’ home court and they vanquished opponents with unyielding frequency.
NBA historical accounts state that in one season, the Rens had a 112-7 record and were 2,588-529 overall. Legendary Hall of Fame coach John Wooden played against the Rens and called them one of the best teams he’s ever played. Despite accolades from white players and interest from larger leagues, the Rens’ road trips came with racist taunts and the threat of violence.