MARCH 19, 1966

1966 Texas Western basketball team

Texas Western, the first NCAA championship basketball team to have five Black starters, defeated the top-ranked, all-White University of Kentucky team. 

The starters were Orsten Artis, Harry Flournoy, Bobby Joe Hill, David Lattin and Willie Worsley. They were basketball’s David facing the mighty Goliath in the form of Kentucky and its vaunted coach, Adolph Rupp, whose teams had already secured four national championships. 

Before the game began, coach Don Haskins told his players that Rupp had vowed five Black starters would never beat his team. They took that personally and imposed their will on Kentucky with tough defense, steals and slam dunks. 

“It was a violent game,” recalled Kentucky player Pat Riley. “I don’t mean there were any fights — but they were desperate and they were committed and they were more motivated than we were.” 

The victory helped to end racist stereotypes in basketball and change the game for good. Nolan Richardson, who played for Texas Western under coach Dan Haskins, said of the game: “What a piece of history. If basketball ever took a turn, that was it.” Soon, schools that had long closed the door to Black athletes began to offer sports scholarships. Over the next two decades, the average number of Black players on college teams nearly doubled. The 2006 movie, Glory Road, recreated events leading up to the famous game.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.