A Look Back at Black History.

2 Mar

Most people assume that the closest they will ever get to the NBA is a courtside seat to watch and cheer for their favorite team, but when Ken Hudson set his eye on the game and the opportunity presented itself, he bought a pair of sneakers and a whistle and hit the ground running—literally.


Growing up in the Homewood area of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Hudson knew he would never let go of his first love —sports, but he never thought he’d marry it either. Joining the National Basketball Association in 1968 as the league’s first black referee, this lifetime partnership began and allotted him an extraordinary experience.


After attending college in Ohio at Central State University, Hudson moved to Boston where he met NBA legends Bill Russell, Sam Jones, and Red Auerbach. However, at the time he never anticipated that those relationships would lead him to a career center court doing what he loved most.


“I had a conversation with Bill and told him ‘One day I’d like to referee in the NBA.’ He looked at me like I had lost my mind,” Hudson recounts. “Shortly after we drove down to Red Auerbach’s camp, and I had the same conversation with him. Red looked at me and said, ‘So. A lot of people would like to do that.’”


That same day, Hudson had an offer to practice with the Celtics; Auerbach wanted to “see what he could do.” After taking on the challenge with great excitement, he began training to referee in the NBA and soon after, his career began. Over the course of his time with the NBA, Hudson refereed over 350 games, and made history as the first person of African American decent to referee on national television.


Hudson proved to be a change agent. The 1960s brought about positive advancements in civil rights and although segregation was not far behind—things were looking up. Hudson seldom faced discrimination because of his race. He stated that there were surely persons who were unhappy to see him succeed but prior to his employment the NBA had worked with people of color, and many were supportive and ready to see him elevate the game.


Since retiring from the NBA, Hudson is still stretching himself far and wide.  He has established a number of summer programs for kids, including the Boston Shoot Out which raised over 100,00 dollars for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Hudson also worked with the Atlanta Hawks, observing referees.


Hudson’s determination and commitment to be the best at whatever he sets his mind to are traits that all people can mirror. His brisk rise to the top of his dream career is something that many want, and that many have the capabilities to achieve. His life and achievements show that the dreams that seem unreachable are really only a conversation and opportunity away.



“I often speak around the country and tell people, whatever it is you decide to do make sure you put forth maximum effort because you only get ONE opportunity to fail,” Hudson said. “Despite all obstacles you are in a position to succeed and if you are willing to pay a price, success is there. Even if it fails you have nothing to be sorry about. If you put forth maximum effort, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.“



Words open gateways to our hearts, and stick with us forever. As easily as they can break us down, a friendly hello or an inspiring note can change the outlook of our days.  In 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a historic speech at Central State University’s commencement. He said, “Whatever it is you decide to do, always work as hard as you can to be the best you can be.” These words stayed with Hudson, serving as his fortune as he spread them to others.


“If your job is to be a street sweeper — when they close the door on you in life it will say, ‘Here lies the greatest street sweeper who ever lived,’” Hudson said. “If it’s being a bush, be the best bush that ever lived.”


In Hudson’s case, his best is being a referee. Running up and down the court of life, blowing whistles, calling fouls, and reminding young people that dreams have no limit.








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