To Our Basketball Family

Deep in our hearts a memory is kept, Of those we loved and shall never forget.

Smart Set Athletic Club

Smart Set Athletic Club championship team of 1908


Smart Set Athletic Club, of Brooklyn, New York, was an amateur African-American basketball team in the early 1900s. Smart Set was the first team to be designated Colored Basketball World’s Champions, in 1908 and 1909. The team so dominated their opponents they were known as the “Grave Diggers.”

The basketball team was only one of the sports teams fielded by the Smart Set Athletic Club, which was founded in 1905. The Smart Set maintained a large track and field team, and members of the club were also active in baseball, swimming, rowing, bowling, boxing, and wrestling. The Smart Set sponsored track and field meets, notably big indoor meets at the 14th Regiment Armory and the 47th Regiment Armory. The athletic club drew its membership from the wealthy black families that lived in the predominantly white Stuyvesant Heights section of Brooklyn.

The basketball team, formed in 1907, is believed to be the first independent all-black basketball team. The Smart Set team played its home games at the 14th Regiment Armory in Brooklyn.

In 1907 the Smart Set team joined other black clubs to form the Olympian Athletic League, which included notable rivals St. Christopher Club and the Alpha Physical Culture Club both of Harlem, as well as the Marathon Athletic Club of Brooklyn and the Jersey City Colored YMCA.

In 1909, the Smart Set pioneered intercity basketball among black teams by traveling down to Washington, DC, to play against the club champion of the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association, Crescent Athletic Club. In 1910, the Smart Set met the 12th Street YMCA of DC in a season-ending game, and lost.

The Smart Set Athletic Club also sponsored a women’s team, the Spartan Girls, one of the first all-black women’s basketball teams.

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