Despite having a passion for Basketball, Donald Argee Barksdale was denied the opportunity to play the game by his high school coach for three consecutive years. It happened in the era of allowing only one black on the team, and the Berkeley High Basketball coach chose another one leaving out Barksdale. He did not leave the game but kept honing his skills in the recreation centers and parks that were available in the neighborhoods of Oakland, California, in his youth.
Triumphs of Donald Argee Barksdale
Donald Argee Barksdale was born to Desoree (née Rowe) Barksdale and Argee Barksdale, a Pullman Porter on 31 March 1923 in Oakland, California. Before earning a scholarship to UCLA, he played at Marin Junior College, across San Francisco Bay for two years.
Barksdale’s perseverance was so strong that he became the first African-American in 1947 to be named to the Helms Foundation All-American team after steering the UCLA Bruins to the Pacific Coast Conference Championship. Not just this, Barksdale represented the US in Basketball at the London Olympics and became the first African-American to make the US Olympic team and the first team to win Gold. Barksdale’s feats made the Whites lend their belief to Blacks as Blacks were as capable as Whites.
Barksdale went pro in 1951, signing with the Baltimore Bullets and also played with AAU Oakland Bittners as an amateur. On his exploits, he was also named to the 1953 NBA All-Star team, where he was above the color line again. He is the first person to be named as an NCAA All-American, and also the first to play in a National Basketball Association(NBA) All-Star Game. He was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Barksdale owned one of the two black-owned record stores in Los Angeles at UCLA during his time. It made him interact closely with performers like Nat King Cole, Lou Rawls, and Etta James.
He started a career in radio broadcasting while playing professional basketball. He became the first black radio disc jockey in 1948 around the San Francisco Bay area. Barksdale also owned a beer distributorship and worked in television. With these, he became the first African-American television host with a show called Sepia review on KRON- TV and the first African-American beer distributor in the Bay area.
Barksdale entered the NBA as a rookie at 28 years by signing a lucrative contract with Baltimore Bullets in 1951. This deal made him one of the top paid players in the league. It is the time when he became the first African-American in 1953, to appear in the NBA All-Star Game. Soon afterward, he was bought by the Boston Celtics, and after two years, the ankle injuries cut short his playing career.
Barksdale was capable of playing above the rim with great moves under the basket, and he would get up and down the court swiftly about anybody during his reign. With his gameplay, we can say that he is much ahead of his time.
After the end of his Basketball career, he returned to radio, opened two nightclubs, and began his recording label in Oakland. He launched the Save High School Sports Foundation in 1983, which bears the credit for saving Oakland school athletic programs from collapsing.
Barksdale was survived by his sons Derek and Donald. He died of throat cancer on 8 March 1993 at the age of 69 in Oakland, California.
He was inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame in 2007 for his contributions to broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay Area. The posthumous-honor was accepted by his sister, Pam Barksdale-Gore, on his behalf.