Much has been made about TSU recruiting a phenomenal young basketball player who has only one arm. Hansel Emmanuel Donato, a 6-foot, 5-inch rising senior at Life Christian Academy in Kissimmee, received the offer from Tennessee State University, Sports Illustrated reported. Donato, 17, had his left arm amputated when a wall collapsed on him.
But did you know that TSU had another amazingly talented star basketball player who only had one arm back in the 1940’s? And did you know that he went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters? Meet a player who overcame great adversity to become a star, “The One Armed Wonder” TSU Hall of Fame Inaugural Class Inductee Boyd Buie.
Boyd Buie joined the Tennessee State basketball team just like the other freshman in 1943. He practiced with the team every day, became a starter and eventually became one of the best players on the team. However, Buie did not look like any other basketball player. Buie only had one arm.
Buie had lost his left arm in a near fatal car accident near Pine Bluff, Arkansas, when he was 13 years old. His family worked diligently with him for over a year to teach him how to maintain his balance and learn how to perform day-to-day activities like tying his shoes and basic chores around the farm where he grew up.
Learning to play basketball with one arm drove him to stardom as the leading scorer at St. Peters High School, which was transformed from a perennial loser to the championship game in his senior year. It is truly amazing that Buie even lived a normal life, but considering that he was not a good athlete before the accident makes Buie’s athletic accomplishments even more incredible.
During high school, Buie’s team improved every season he played there until his senior season when the team went all the way to the Arkansas State Championship.During his senior year in high school, he was offered a contract to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, but his family’s emphasis on education demanded for academic achievement first, therefore he completed his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education with a minor in Science in three years by attending school year round while working as a barber.
Coaches and fans fawned over Buie’s fundamentals and silky-smooth jump shot once he came to TSU. While in college, Buie did what he did wherever he played — win. He even helped TSU win the Black National Championship in 1946 with a win over Langston. Prior to that game, Langston had not lost a game in three seasons.
After graduating in 1946 with letters in both basketball and tennis, he signed with the Globetrotters. During his 9 year career with the team, he was a starter averaging 14 points per game and was one of the most accurate jump shooters on the squad with stars Marques Haynes, Goose Tatum, Pops Gates and Sweetwater Clifton. His scoring acumen and ball handling skills earned him the nick names “One Armed Wonder” and “One Armed Firecracker”. During his career with the Globetrotters, they beat the champion Minneapolis Lakers two out of three games over the course of two seasons and toured the post World War II globe travelling to 61 countries as ambassadors of basketball and America.
As the NBA began to integrate with former Harlem Globetrotters and Negro College stars, Buie embarked on an entrepreneurial path and started his own team, the Harlem Stars, in the second half of the 1950s. Headquartered in Compton, California, his team traversed the world through the 1970s and were known for their crisp passing, trick shots, clowning and winning.
In 1983, Buie was inducted into the TSU Athletics Hall of Fame in their inaugural class. The Tennessee House of Representatives honored Buie with House Resolution No. 96 in the state legislature.