Last week, Rochester Senator Joe Robach attended the unveiling of a memorial to the late Les Harrison, Basketball Hall of Famer and former Founder, Owner and Coach of the 1951 NBA Champion Rochester Royals.
Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, Les Harrison was born and raised in Rochester and attended East High School where he was a star basketball player. Les was the founder, owner and coach of the original Rochester Royals professional basketball franchise, winning world championships as a member of the National Basketball League in 1945-46 and as a member of the National Basketball Association in 1950-51. Les played an integral role in the merger of the NBL and the Basketball Association of America into the National Basketball Association in 1949. Les was responsible for breaking professional basketball’s color barrier when, in 1945, he signed the first African American, Dolly King, to a contract. He was also the director and sponsor of the Rochester Classic collegiate basketball tournament for 30 year as well as operating a basketball camp, where Senator Joe Robach once worked.
On the same day as the Les Harrison Memorial unveiling, the NBA announced that the Sacramento Kings franchise would be sold to a group in Sacramento instead of Seattle. The retention of the Kings in Sacramento ensured that the franchise of Les Harrison and Rochester would be remain a member of the of the NBA. The Sacramento Kings can trace their origins to a local semi-professional team based in Rochester, New York in the early 1920s. The team was officially established professionally in 1945 as the Rochester Royals by Les Harrison. The Royals relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1957, becoming the Cincinnati Royals. In 1972, the team relocated to Kansas City, taking up the name Kansas City Kings. They then moved to Sacramento in 1985.