HBCU Basketball, Tennessee A&I basketball team, White House

Historic HBCU Basketball Team Finally Honored At The White House

After more than six decades, the Tennessee A&I Tigers, the groundbreaking men's HBCU basketball team, received their long-awaited visit to the White House.

Essence reports that after more than six decades, the Tennessee A&I Tigers, the groundbreaking men’s HBCU basketball team, made their long-awaited visit to the White House on April 14.

Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to the team, acknowledging their pioneering spirit and indelible contributions to the game of basketball and the broader struggle for social justice.

“There’s so much that we have accomplished as a nation because of the heroes like those that I’m looking at right now,” Harris said. “I, like so many of us, stand on your broad shoulders, each one of you.”

The celebrated teammates, Dick Barnett (who later became a Hall of Fame guard with the New York Knicks), George Finley, Ernest Jones, Henry Carlton, Robert Clark, and Ron Hamilton, participated in an intimate gathering held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

In 1957, the Tennessee A&I Tigers became the first HBCU basketball team to win any national championship, according to The New York Times. Their unparalleled success continued with three consecutive national titles from 1957 to 1959.

For George Finley, one of the team’s distinguished members, the White House visit was an emotional culmination of decades-long anticipation. “This is the greatest day of my life,” he said. “I thought this would never take place.”

The journey to the White House was fraught with challenges, including a bomb threat on their return trip home in 1957 and years of advocacy for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Tennessee A&I Tigers finally made it in 2019.

Congressional Representative Gregory W. Meeks spearheaded the efforts to honor the team, culminating in their White House visit. Reflecting on their groundbreaking achievements, Harris penned a heartfelt tribute, recognizing the team’s pivotal role in breaking barriers both on and off the court.