|No. 19, 8, 24|
|Center / Power forward|
|Date of birth: October 13, 1922|
Little Rock, Arkansas
|Height: 6 ft 6 in||Weight: 220 lbs|
|College: Xavier (Louisiana)|
|Pro career: 1950-1958|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Nat Clifton at NBA.com|
|Stats at basketball-reference.com|
Nathaniel (Nat or Sweetwater) Clifton (born Clifton Nathaniel on October 13, 1922 in Little Rock, AK) was the first African American to sign a contract with a National Basketball Association team and play in the NBA. (Harold Hunter signed a contract with the Washington Capitols on April 26, 1950, but was cut during training camp.) Clifton debuted for the Knicks in 1950. Legend has it he was given the nickname of "Sweetwater" as a boy because of his love of soft drinks.
Clifton's family moved to Chicago when he was young, and Clifton became a baseball and basketball star at DuSable High, graduating in January of 1942. While he did not lead DuSable to the Chicago Public High School League championship, he did lead his school to the big University of Chicago holiday tournament title in December 1940. For two years, 1941 and 1942, Clifton played on the Wabash YMCA team, leading them in 1942 to second place in the International YMCA tournament.
After briefly attending Xavier University in Louisiana he was drafted in the U. S. Army and served three years during World War II. After the war, Clifton played with the New York Rens. With his rangy height, at 6 feet 7 inches, and large hands (size 14 glove), Clifton became a major force on the team. In the summer of 1948 Clifton was signed by the ascendant Harlem Globetrotters by Abe Saperstein. By 1950, Clifton was tiring of the travel and low pay with the Globetrotters and was eager to enter the NBA.
Sweetwater played eight seasons for the Knicks and the Detroit Pistons, averaging 10.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He played in the 1957 NBA All-Star team at 34 years, 3 months becoming the oldest first-time All-Star in NBA history.
During the off-season, Sweetwater Clifton played amateur softball for the Brown Bombers in the famed Windy City League, and professional baseball with the Chicago American Giants in the Negro League. Clifton died on August 31, 1990.
There is a film in production chronicling his life, entitled, Sweetwater.