Nicknamed the “Father of Black Professional Basketball,” Robert “Bob” Douglas owned and coached the Rens from 1923 to 1949. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1972 the first African American enshrined.
The New York Renaissance team was the first all-black professional “black-owned” basketball team. The team was formed in Harlem in 1923 by Robert Douglas. The team’s name originally was “Spartans.” But, Douglas needed a place for the team to play home games and asked William Roach, the owner of the new Renaissance Ballroom and Casino to allow the team to play there and in exchange the team would change their name to the “New York Renaissance.”
The Rens was known all throughout the Midwest and were not afraid to go up against any team regardless of race. However, Jim Crow laws prevented the team from spending the nights in hotels and eating decent warm meals while traveling.
It was not long before hte Rens became a dominant team, and won 88 consecutive games during 1932-33. The team’s original lineup included Clarence “Fats” Jenkins and James “Pappy” Ricks, as well as Frank “Strangler” Forbes and Leon Monde. All four of these men went on to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues.
During the World Professional Basketball Tournament the team won in 1939, but lost to the eventual champion Harlem Globetrotters in 1940, and finished second to the National Basketball League champion Minneapolis Lakers in 1948.