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Barclays Center Honors Legacy of
African-American Basketball in Brooklyn


Pays Tribute to Historic “Black Fives” Teams with Large-Scale Photographs in Main Concourse, Community Event with Brooklyn Nets Player C.J. Watson,
and Nets Half-Time Presentation


BROOKLYN, February 4, 2013 – On February 10, Barclays Center will honor the legacy of Brooklyn’s African-American basketball history with the installation of six large-scale photographs of the Black Fives, early-twentieth century African-American basketball teams, throughout the arena’s main concourse. The images depict players from Brooklyn’s own Black Fives team, the Smart Set Athletic Club, established in 1906 as the first fully independent, formally organized African-American basketball team; their female counterparts, the Spartan Girls Athletic Club; and a related team from Manhattan, the New York Girls. The installation of the photographic images continues Barclays Center’s commitment to presenting arts and culture projects that celebrate Brooklyn’s diverse population and dynamic history by making the borough’s basketball legacy accessible to a contemporary audience.

New York Girls, 1910

A view of the concourse in the Barclays Center, showing the New York Girls, an all-black female team organized in 1909. This is one of six in a special compilation of mural-sized vintage African American photographic images permanently installed in the concourse of the Barclays Center.

The Black Fives teams were an integral part of African-American basketball from 1904 to 1950, prior to the racial integration of the National Basketball League in the 1940s and the National Basketball Association in 1950. Like baseball’s Negro League, Black Fives teams represented most major American cities and were made up of exceptional athletes who helped to shape the modern game. Until recently, the story of the Black Fives has remained largely untold.

To mark the unveiling of the images and honor the legacy of the Black Fives, Barclays Center hosted a community event today, during which Claude Johnson, founder and executive director of the Black Fives Foundation, shared insights on the historic teams with three generations of Brooklyn’s basketball players: descendants of Brooklyn’s Black Fives team, Brooklyn Nets player C.J. Watson, and students from P.S. 282 in Park Slope. Watson and Johnson then participated in a clinic for the local fourth and fifth graders in which they taught the rules that were used in basketball one hundred years ago, during the Black Fives era.

The six Black Fives images will be on view for the first time on February 10 when the Brooklyn Nets host the San Antonio Spurs. Claude Johnson and several descendants of Brooklyn’s Black Fives team will be honored during a special half-time presentation at center court, and fans will be invited to view the photographs in the arena’s main concourse. Special giveaways and a half-time video will also help celebrate Black History Month and the Black Fives legacy in Brooklyn.

“Barclays Center is a crossroads for Brooklyn, and honoring the Black Fives is a great way to bring sports, Brooklyn’s history, and our community together in a meaningful way,” said Bruce Ratner, developer and majority owner of Barclays Center. “As professional basketball once again comes to life in Brooklyn, it’s a perfect moment to recognize the men and women who showed incredible commitment to the sport by being among the borough’s first players.”

“The men and women who played during the Black Fives era were true basketball pioneers who opened doors for generations of African-American players,” said Claude Johnson. “This installation represents a milestone in the recognition of this important history, its pioneers, and their descendants. I can’t think of a better time or place to celebrate their legacy than during Barclays Center’s first Black History Month and the Nets inaugural season in Brooklyn. Wherever I tell the story of the Black Fives, I see personal connections being made by students, players, and sports fans of all ages and backgrounds. The success of these teams ushered in the Harlem Renaissance period, smashed the color barrier in pro basketball, and helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement.”

About the Black Fives Foundation

The Black Fives Foundation is committed to telling the story of the pre-1950 history of African-Americans in basketball in order to teach leadership and character development, promote educational advancement, enrich appreciation of culture and the arts, build fitness and health awareness, encourage community-based youth programming, and advocate for the recognition of the era’s pioneers and their descendants. The Foundation enables these efforts through innovative uses of technology as well as via traditional means. The Foundation connects fans of the Black Fives with meaningful causes in the communities where the pioneering teams originally played, including Brooklyn, Harlem, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, Newark, and Los Angeles.

The newly established Black Fives Foundation is incorporated in Washington, D.C. and will be organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, operating exclusively for charitable purposes to research, preserve, exhibit, and promote the pre-1950 history of African American basketball teams (the “Black Fives Era”).

About Art and Culture at the Barclays Center

As Barclays Center creates a new crossroads for Brooklyn, it is also defining a new model for the role that sports and entertainment arenas can play in the life of their communities. One component of this is a series of visual arts projects inspired by the creative energy of the borough and installations that celebrate the lives of the people in Brooklyn. The initiative will grow over time, with new commissions and projects throughout Barclays Center to be announced in the coming months.
The inaugural art projects include a 110-foot-long mural by Brooklyn-based artist Mickalene Thomas that combines photo collage and painting to depict the Brooklyn cityscape, a 70-foot-long mural by Jose Parla that reflects the cultural and literary history of the borough, and two works by OpenEndedGroup, a collaborative of three digital artists—Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar, and Paul Kaiser. OpenEndedGroup’s first project, After Ghost Catching, will be displayed on the Oculus and is an adaptation of their collaboration with dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones. For their second piece, to be presented in spring 2013, they will take to the streets of Brooklyn to capture 3-D images of a day in the life of the borough. The resulting work, titled All Day, will present a kaleidoscopic look at the childhood games—from pick-up basketball to tag—on Brooklyn’s playgrounds, streets, and stoops.

About Barclays Center

Barclays Center opened on September 28, 2012, and is a major sports and entertainment venue in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Developed by Brooklyn-based real estate developer Forest City Ratner Companies, and designed by the award-winning architectural firms AECOM ( and SHoP Architects (, Barclays Center has one of the most intimate seating configurations ever designed into a modern multi-purpose arena, with unparalleled sightlines and first-class amenities. Barclays Center offers 17,732 seats for basketball, 14,500 seats for hockey and up to 19,000 seats for concerts, and has 101 luxury suites, four bars/lounges, four clubs, and 40/40 CLUB & Restaurant by American Express.

In addition to Barclays, the naming rights partner, Founding Partners for Barclays Center include American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; American Express; Calvin Klein; Cushman & Wakefield; EmblemHealth; Foxwoods Resort Casino; GEICO; MetroPCS; Stolichnaya; and Ticketmaster. Other sponsors include: adidas, Anheuser-Busch, The Coca-Cola Company, Haier America, High Point Solutions, JetBlue, LIU Brooklyn, New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, SONY, and Willis.

Located atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York City, Barclays Center is accessible by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, and 11 bus lines.

For more information on Barclays Center, please visit



Ariel Hudes
Resnicow Schroeder Associates

Barry Baum
Barclays Center

(Official press release distributed by the Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets.)