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Ken Hudson, NBA Pioneer

February 21, 2019

As we observe Black History month and watch on television all the officials of color, it is good to remember that someone had to be the first. In the NBA that first person was Kenny Hudson. The following is his obituary reprinted from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated 05/17/2012:

Kenneth Samuel Hudson made history in 1968 by becoming the first African-American full-time referee in the National Basketball Association, but his legacy stretches far beyond the court. The pioneering Pittsburgh native spent four years officiating in the NBA before working in Boston and Atlanta in an executive capacity at Coca-Cola and as vice president of community affairs for the Boston Celtics Limited Partnership.

Mr. Hudson died May 9 in hospice care in Atlanta. He battled prostate cancer since 1997 and suffered brain damage in a recent fall. He was 72. The night after his death, the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics tipped off Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. Three referees – Derrick Stafford, Eric Lewis and Bill Kennedy – put whistles around their necks and took the court in Boston. All three were African-American. “Kenny was ahead of the curve,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters before Game 6. “He was a neat man. He stood for a lot of good things, and I think he’s responsible for a lot of inner-city kids being where they are today. ‘

Mr. Rivers was once one of those inner-city kids. He recalled being pulled off the streets of Chicago in 1980 and put on his first-ever plane flight. His destination was Boston and the Boston Shootout, an AAU basketball tournament founded eight years earlier by Mr. Hudson. That’s where I met Kenny Hudson,” Mr. Rivers said. “Of all the tournaments I’ve ever played in, that’s the way AAU should be.”

Though his name will forever be etched into basketball history books, Mr. Hudson’s first passion was playing baseball while growing up in Homewood. After graduating from Westinghouse High School in 1957, he earned a baseball scholarship at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. It was in Wilberforce where Mr. Hudson began his officiating career. What started as a work-study job resulted in Mr. Hudson serving as a basketball referee for high school and semiprofessional leagues before his graduation in 1961.

After college, Mr. Hudson returned to Pittsburgh to teach elementary school and study retail management at the University of Pittsburgh. In the mid 1960’s, Mr. Hudson caught the eye of NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell while officiating a college game. Mr. Russell persuaded legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach to allow Mr. Hudson to referee the team’s training camp scrimmages. Auerbach, who died in 2006, agreed, was impressed with Mr. Hudson’s professionalism and recommended him to the NBA league offices.

NBA Barrier Breaker: Ken Hudson


From → Referee

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on NYBasketball.

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