Pop Gates
Pop Gates.jpeg
Gates, circa 1952
Personal information
Born(1917-08-30)August 30, 1917
Decatur, Alabama
DiedDecember 1, 1999(1999-12-01) (aged 82)
New York City, New York
Listed height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Listed weight205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High schoolBenjamin Franklin
(Harlem, New York)
Career history
As player:
1937–1938New York Harlem Yankees
New York Renaissance
1941–1946Washington Licthman Bears
1941–1944Grumman Flyers
1944–1946Long Island Grumman Hellcats
1945–1946Chicago Monarchs
1946–1947Tri-Cities Blackhawks
1947–1949New York Rens
1949Dayton Rens
1949–1950Scranton Miners
1950–1957Harlem Globetrotters
1951–1952New York Celtics
As coach:
1949Dayton Rens
1950–1955Harlem Globetrotters
Career highlights and awards
  • NBL All-Time Team
  • 3× All-WPBT Team (1940, 1942, 1943)
  • ABL champion (1950)
Basketball Hall of Fame as player

William Penn "Pop" Gates (August 30, 1917 – December 1, 1999) was an American professional basketball player.

Early life

He was born in Decatur, Alabama and attended high school in New York, New York. During high school studies he earned All-Conference honors in both 1937 and 1938 and made the All-City first team in 1938, as well as won 3 All-City titles with YMCA teams.[1] Some later newspaper publications claimed that Gates graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), but in fact his professional basketball career started right after graduating from Franklin High School.[2]

Basketball career

Gates started his professional basketball career with the New York Renaissance, beginning in 1938–39. "Seven months before Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Leo Ferris helped usher in a new era of racial integration for professional basketball when he signed Pop Gates, who made his debut for the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in October 1946.

Gates, along with William "Dolly" King, were the first two African-American players in the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1946. "When Leo Ferris came to me, it was like a godsend", Gates was quoted as saying in the book "Pioneers of the Hardwood: Indiana and the Birth of Professional Basketball." "It was a real highlight of my career to be accepted by the NBL as one of only two blacks in the league."[3]

Later Gates played for and coached the Harlem Globetrotters. He is one of the few athletes who went directly from a high school championship team (Benjamin Franklin, New York, 1938) to a world professional champion (New York Rens, 1939).

Awards and honors

Gates was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1989.


  1. ^ Rayl, Susan (2000). "Gates, William ("Pop")". In Kirsch, George B.; Harris, Othello; Nolte, Claire E. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-313-29911-0.
  2. ^ "William 'Pop' Gates". The Black Fives Foundation. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  3. ^ "Long-forgotten Leo Ferris helped devise NBA's 24-second clock, first used 61 years ago today". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2016-03-14.