Source: Pioneer Cooper picked for Hall of Fame

Basketball pioneer Chuck Cooper, the first African-American drafted in NBA history, will be announced as an inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday in Minneapolis, a source told ESPN's The Undefeated.

Cooper was selected to the Hall of Fame by the special direct-elect Early African-American Pioneers Committee.

The former Duquesne University star was drafted by the Boston Celtics 13th overall on April 25, 1950.

Then-Celtics owner Walter Brown famously said he didn't care whether Cooper was "striped, plaid or polka dot," after he was drafted.

Cooper will join fellow African-American basketball pioneers Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton and Earl Lloyd, the first blacks to enter the NBA during the 1950-51 season, in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Cooper averaged 6.7 points and 5.9 rebounds while playing for the Celtics, Milwaukee Hawks, St. Louis Hawks and Fort Wayne Pistons from 1950 to 1956. His rights were sold to the Hawks on May 28, 1954, after he felt marginalized as a defensive player with Boston.

After still feeling underutilized with St. Louis and Fort Wayne, the athletic 6-foot-5 forward played a season for the Harlem Globetrotters-like Harlem Magicians in 1956 before leaving basketball for good.

Cooper died on Feb. 5, 1984, in Pittsburgh, at age 57.

Chuck Cooper III previously told ESPN that his father retired from basketball because of disappointment in his role and not due to a car accident as believed.

"He always thought that even though the NBA integrated in 1950, they weren't ready for black stars," Cooper III told The Undefeated in 2016.

Cooper endured strong racial prejudices on and off the court that rivaled what Hall of Famer and Celtics legend Bill Russell experienced in Boston.

While with the Celtics, Cooper often had to stay at a different hotel or eat in different restaurants than his teammates because he was black. The Pittsburgh native once slept on the train instead of in the team hotel in North Carolina. Then-Celtics coach Red Auerbach once said Cooper "had to go through hell" as an NBA player. Hall of Famer and former Celtics great Bob Cousy once cried in an interview while reflecting on what Cooper went through.

Former Golden State Warriors guard and coach Al Attles, who has been working with the Warriors franchise since 1960, once told The Undefeated that Cooper, Lloyd and Clifton made it easier for himself, Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell and other early black NBA players to feel comfortable in the league.

Cooper wore No. 11 for the Celtics, which is not among the record 23 jerseys retired with the franchise. Former Celtics star Paul Pierce, who had his jersey retired in Boston in 2018, told The Undefeated three years ago that he thought the Celtics should retire Cooper's No. 11 jersey.

"Why not?" Pierce said in 2016. "There are probably a lot of numbers up there that shouldn't even be retired. You've done something groundbreaking, and you changed the course of history of bringing black players to Boston.

"His picture should be up everywhere, and his number should be retired. It's surprising it's not."