Location: Los Angeles, California
Home Court: Olympic Auditorium
Colors: Team Red, Ivory, College Blue
Owner: Jack Duddy
Though little known today, the Los Angeles Red Devils were a unique and important pioneering professional basketball team that played during the mid-1940s.
They were originally organized as a speculative venture by a white sports promoter named Jack Duddy, who envisioned that his new team might join the National Basketball League (N.B.L.), which at the time was considering the addition of a West Coast franchise.
The Red Devils featured Jackie Robinson, the former U.C.L.A. star who was that school’s first (and still only) four-sport varsity letterman—in football, baseball, basketball, and track.
They played their home games at the Olympic Auditorium in downtown L.A., which was better known as a boxing and wrestling venue. The building still stands, though no longer used as an athletic venue, and is within walking distance from the Staples Center, home court of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association.
After completing his spectacular rookie season with the Montreal Royals of baseball’s minor leagues, Robinson returned home to Pasadena in October 1946 to sign with the Red Devils. It was his first (and last) professional basketball contract.Though they only played two seasons, the Red Devils were outstanding. Their lineup included forwards Jackie Robinson, Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member George Crowe, and Pasadena City College standout Irv Noren, guards Everett “Ziggy” Marcelle, a Southern University grad and former Harlem Globetrotter, and U.S.C. All-American Eddie Oram, and Stanford star Art Stoefen at center.
During the 1946-47 season, they crushed the Sheboygan Redskins of the NBL, twice.
They also defeated the New York Renaissance with a lineup that included future New York City Basketball Hall of Fame member Clarence “Puggy” Bell and future NBA player Hank DeZonie. Not once but twice.
Then they split two games with the NBL champion Chicago Gears, a talented team that featured the great future Hall of Fame member George Mikan, with only four points in total separating the two teams.
Robinson carried fond memories of the Red Devils. “There were some exceptionally good basketball players with name value on the squad,” he reminisced. “We had, I think, a really fine team.”
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