Zelmo Beaty is an absolute legend for more reasons than one. He was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in 1962 out of Prairie View A&M, an HBCU in Prairie View, TX. Knicknamed, ‘The Franchise, Beaty averaged a double-double every year following his rookie season and was named an NBA All-Star twice with the Hawks.
Despite this, the Hawks didn’t want to compensate him properly, resulting in him jumping ship to the ABA. Because of legal issues, Beaty had to sit out an entire year before being able to play in the competing league. During that year, the team he signed with, the Los Angeles Stars, moved to Salt Lake. At first, Beaty did not want to follow. Salt Lake was historically a nearly all-white city, and in the 1960s it’s understandable why he would be apprehensive to play there. Eventually, he did make the move with the team, and only then did his fellow black teammates follow. This laid the foundation for professional basketball in Utah, which wouldn’t have been possible without Zelmo Beaty.
Beaty’s contributions to the game reach far and wide. From civil rights to labor issues, not to mention what he did on the court, which can be read about here in a 2013 article by Stefan Fatsis. Throughout his career, Beaty made it clear he made a difference wherever he was. He’s a hero and a Hall of Famer (posthumously), and the Hawks should have either paid him what he was worth or let him go. It’s an honest shame that this man lost a year of his career because of contract issues, that stripped him of his agency.