Black History Month: Jimmy Blacklock

Black History Month: Jimmy Blacklock (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

For decades, Jimmy Blacklock traveled the world bringing joy through basketball.

His career with the Harlem Globetrotters took him to 92 countries as both a player and coach. Blacklock even made it onto major TV shows like “The Love Boat” and “Gilligan’s Island,” not to mention being part of early McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets ads.

“We were like rock stars,” said Blacklock. “Everywhere we went we had massive crowds.”

Blacklock’s path from Yates High School to the University of Texas to the Harlem Globetrotters was not easy.

In 1970, Blacklock became the first African-American scholarship player at UT, under coach Leon Black. Coming out of junior college, Blacklock had a number of offers but chose the Longhorns.

“When I got there it was a shock when I found out exactly what my position was at the time,” said Blacklock. “I was the person, not that everyone looked to but looked at.”

On the court, Blacklock thrived, leading the Longhorns in scoring in his first season, but also described moments of difficulty with both opponents and teammates. In one instance, at Ole Miss, Blacklock was hard-fouled at the end of a game and his tussle with the opposing player ended up with him next to the Rebels’ bench.

“Of course, I got kicked and punched and chairs thrown on (me),” said Blacklock. “As these things were happening I peered out and saw my team - just standing there, and the coaches were holding them back. It stuck in my mind and I was really hurt by it. There was one guy who broke away from the pack, a guy named Billy Black, and he helped in the rescue of me.”

Blacklock detailed another instance where a teammate put a bug in his Coca-Cola, and Blacklock was threatened not to retaliate or else.

“I didn’t feel helpless, or betrayed, just more embarrassed,” said Blacklock.

But with the guidance of his coach, Blacklock pushed through to create a legacy with the Longhorns.

In 2016, the University of Texas inducted Blacklock into the university’s Hall of Honor. Black showed up to support Blacklock.

In 2020, Blacklock was inducted into the Harlem Globetrotters Legends Ring. Black again showed up to support Blacklock despite failing health. Coach Leon Black passed away in October of 2021.

“Had I taken another direction in life I don’t know where I would be,” said Blacklock. “But I am so thankful and grateful, there was a little man who felt that I was important to him. He took the chance and allowed me to come to a school where I wasn’t wanted, to do what I did.”

“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Blacklock.

Blacklock spent 10 years coaching with the Harlem Globetrotters and recently retired, spending time with his family.

His son, Ross, was a defensive tackle for the Texans and was Houston’s 2nd round pick in 2020.

About the Author:

Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.