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Harlem Globetrotters

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Harlem Globetrotters
Harlem Globetrotters logo
Leagues Independent
Founded 1926
History Chicago GlobeTrotters 1900- 1927
New York Harlem Globetrotters
Harlem Globetrotters
Arena Barnstorming team
Location Harlem, New York
Team colors Red, White, & Blue
President Nickolas Cardinale (GM)
Head coach Clyde Sinclair (Coach)
Lou Dunbar (Coach)
Barry Hardy (Coach)
Tex Harrison (Consultant)
Website Official website
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Home jersey
Kit shorts whitesides.png
Team colours
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Away jersey
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Team colours

The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theatre, and comedy.

Created by Abe Saperstein in 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, the team adopted the name Harlem because of its connotations as a major African-American community. Over the years they have played more than 20,000 exhibition games in 118 countries.

Brother Bones's whistled version of " Sweet Georgia Brown" is the team's signature song. Globie has been their mascot since 1993.

Early history

There is no clear consensus as to the very beginnings of the Globetrotters. The official history contains several details which seem contradictory, such as the team being organized in 1926 in the Savoy Ballroom, which opened in 1927. What is clear is that the genesis of the Globetrotters takes place in the South Side of Chicago in the 1920s, where all the original players grew up. Most of the players also attended Wendell Phillips High School. When the Savoy Ballroom opened in November 1927, one of the premier attractions was the Savoy Big Five, a basketball team that played exhibitions before dances. Hinckley IL. was home to the first Harlem Globetrotters game on January 7, 1927. In 1928, several players left the team in a dispute over bringing back other players who had left the team. That fall, several players led by Tommy Brookins formed a team called the "Globe Trotters" which would tour Southern Illinois that spring. Abe Saperstein became involved with the team, though to exactly what extent is unclear. In any event, by 1929 Saperstein was touring Illinois and Iowa with his basketball team, called the "New York Harlem Globe Trotters". Saperstein decided to pick Harlem as their home city since Harlem was considered the centre of African-American culture at the time, and an out of town team name would give the team more of a mystique. After four decades of existence, the Globetrotters played their first "home" game in Harlem in 1968.

The first star player came from Annawan, Illinois, and the second star player of those early Globe Trotters (the name would be merged into one word later on) was Albert "Runt" Pullins, an adept dribbler and shooter. Soon he would be joined by 6'3" Inman Jackson, who played centre and had a flair for showboating. They would originate the two roles that would stay with the 'trotters for decades, the showman and the dribbler.

The Globetrotters were initially a serious competitive team, and despite a flair for entertainment, they would only clown for the audience after establishing a safe lead in the game. In 1939, they accepted an invitation to participate in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, where they met the New York Rens in the semi-finals in the first big clash of the two greatest all-black professional basketball teams. The Rens defeated the Globetrotters and went on to win the Tournament, but in 1940 the Globetrotters avenged their loss by defeating the Rens in the quarterfinals and advancing to the championship game, where they beat the Chicago Bruins in overtime by a score of 37–36.

The Globetrotters beat the premier professional team, the Minneapolis Lakers (led by George Mikan), for two years in a row in 1948 and 1949, with the Lakers winning later contests. The February 1948 win (by a score of 61-59, on a buzzer beater) was a hallmark in professional basketball history, as the all-black Globetrotters proved they were on an equal footing with the all-white Lakers. John Christgau has reported the 1948 game in his book Tricksters in the Madhouse, published in 2004 by the University of Nebraska Press; he notes that the 1949 game was filmed by Fox Movietone. Momentum for ending the National Basketball Association's colour line grew, and in 1950, Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted by an NBA team, the Boston Celtics. From that time on the Globetrotters had increasing difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.

Tony Peyton was the last living member of the original Globetrotters. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1996. He died in Midland, Texas, on July 23, 2007, at the age of eighty-five.

Finding success

Globetrotters player Meadowlark Lemon presenting a ball signed by the team to First Lady Betty Ford in 1974.

The Globetrotters gradually worked comic routines into their act until they became known more for entertainment than sports. The Globetrotters' acts often feature incredible coordination and skillful handling of one or more basketballs, such as passing or juggling balls between players, balancing or spinning balls on their fingertips, and making unusual, difficult shots.

Among the players who have been Globetrotters are NBA greats Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, as well as Davey Neidig, George "Meadowlark" Lemon, Jerome James, former Temple coach John Chaney, Reece "Goose" Tatum, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and Hubert "Geese" Ausbie. Another popular team member in the 1970s and 1980s was Fred "Curly" Neal who was the best dribbler of that era of the team's history and was immediately recognizable due to his shaven head. Baseball Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins also played for the team at one time or another. In 1985, the Globetrotters signed their first female player, Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard, and their second, Joyce Walker, just three weeks later.

Because virtually all of its players have been African American, and because of the buffoonery involved in many of the Globetrotters' skits, they drew some criticism in the Civil Rights era. The players were derisively accused of "Tomming for Abe", a reference to Uncle Tom and white owner Abe Saperstein. However, prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (who would later be named an Honorary Globetrotter) came to their defense by stating, "I think they've been a positive influence... They did not show blacks as stupid. On the contrary, they were shown as superior by being stupid". In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic and the first non-black on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942-43.

Winning streaks and rare defeats

Globetrotters playing with spectators

After losing to the Washington Generals in 1962, the Harlem Globetrotters lost only two more games in the next 38 years (12,596 games). Usually they played a "stooge" team owned by Red Klotz, which also appeared as the Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds, Baltimore Rockets, or Atlantic City Seagulls. On January 5, 1971 they lost in Martin, Tennessee in overtime to the New Jersey Reds; the 100-99 score ended an alleged 2,495-game winning streak (which meant that the Globetrotters were playing 277 games per year up until that date).

In addition to their hundreds of exhibition games, the Globetrotters have faced some competitive action since the mid-1990s. On September 12, 1995, they lost 91–85 to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's All Star Team in Vienna, Austria ending an alleged run of 8,829 straight victories in going back to 1971. The 48-year-old Abdul-Jabbar scored 34 points. 8,829 games in twenty-four years would mean the Globetrotters were playing nearly 368 games per year, or more than one game a day some days, for twenty four years. This is due to the fact that multiple team line-ups tour as The Globetrotters to allow for a greater number of exhibitions. The Globetrotters won the other 10 games during that European tour.

They also immediately went on another winning streak of 1,270 before losing 72–68 to the Michigan State University Spartans on November 13, 2000.

On Saturday November 15, 2003, the UTEP Miners, coached by Billy Gillispie, beat the Harlem Globetrotters 89-88 ending their 288 game win streak.

On February 27, 2006, the Globetrotters extended their overall record to exactly 22,000 wins. Their most recent loss came on March 31, 2006 when they went down 87–83 to the NABC College All-Stars to bring their loss tally to just 345, a winning percentage of 98.4%.

On November 24, 2008 the Harlem Globetrotters teamed up with the NBA in order to give basketball fans around the world high quality basketball entertainment.

According to the Globetrotters' website, all of the Globetrotters' exhibition games are real games.

Harlem Globetrotters in films and television

The Harlem Globetrotters have been featured in several of their own films and television series over the years:

  • The Harlem Globetrotters, a 1951 feature film starring Whitney Rumsey and other Globetrotters, also featuring Thomas Gomez, Dorothy Dandridge, Bill Walker, and Angela Clarke. Young Bill Townsend drops out of college to join the famous independent Trotter team. He also finds romance along the way. "Goose" Tatum and fancy dribbler Haynes were the star players of the Globetrotters at the time and Saperstein was the owner. Tatum, Haynes, Babe Presley, Ermer Robinson, Duke Cumberland, Clarence Wilson, Pop Gates, Frank Washington, Ted Strong and other current team members appear in the film as themselves. Also featured is a lot of actual game footage (three times against the Celtics with Tony Lavelli and Big Bob Hahn), including their famous "Sweet Georgia Brown" warm-up routine. (Along with making the film, the team toured Major League Baseball stadiums that year and went on their first tour of South America).
  • Go, Man, Go!, a 1954 sequel, starring Dane Clark as Abe Saperstein and Sidney Poitier as Inman Jackson.
  • In 1958, as captain of the Globetrotters, Clarence Wilson appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show "To Tell The Truth".
  • Harlem Globetrotters, a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon, broadcast from September 12, 1970 to May 1973. Originally broadcast on CBS, and later re-run on NBC as The Go-Go Globetrotters. The cartoon Globetrotters also guest-starred 3 times on the The New Scooby Doo Movies.
  • Coach Reeves of the 1970s TV series The White Shadow persuades the Harlem Globetrotters to prevent his team's winning streak from going to their heads. This is one of the few TV appearances of the Globetrotters where they outscored their opponents in the first half, as the game was mostly a life lesson and not a contest. The Globetrotters would return in season 3 when star player Warren Coolidge, convinced that his basketball ability will preclude his need to finish high school, considers dropping out of school and trying out for the Globetrotters. After failing miserably in his tryout, Coolidge is convinced to finish his education before giving any thought to a basketball career. The Globetrotters reinforce his decision by each introducing themselves to him by name and adding their college alma maters to their introductions.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine, a 1974 live-action Saturday morning variety show starring the Globetrotters which featured comedy skits, blackout gags, and educational segments. The show was produced by Funhouse Productions and Yongestreet Productions for CBS.
  • The Super Globetrotters, a second animated series created by Hanna-Barbera for NBC in 1979. It featured the Globetrotters (now including new squad members James "Twiggy" Sanders, Nate Branch and Louis "Sweet Lou" Dunbar) as undercover superheroes, who would transform from their regular forms by entering magic portable lockers carried in "Sweet Lou" Dunbar's afro, or in a basketball-shaped medallion. Although the Super Globetrotters would first attempt to take on the villain with standard comical heroics, things would almost always be settled with a basketball game.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, a 1981 made-for-TV film featured the Globetrotters alongside Bob Denver and the rest of the cast of Gilligan's Island. The film's plot follows the first animated series' formula to a degree with a conflict that ends with an unusual basketball game against an opposing team made up of robots. The Globetrotters decide to play with standard moves in the first half, which the robots are able to counter, until Gilligan unwittingly comments that they have not done any fancy tricks, which make the Professor advise the team to use their comedic style of play to win, which hopelessly confuses the machines. However, a couple of Globetrotters suffer injuries, and Gilligan and the Skipper have to substitute for the players.
  • Harlem Globetrotters: The Team that Changed the World, a 2005 documentary featuring interviews with the Globetrotters, NBA coaches and fans such as Bill Cosby, Samuel L. Jackson, Barack Obama, Phil Jackson and Henry Kissinger — himself an honorary Globetrotter — and including photos of the Globetrotters with Pope John Paul II.
  • Futurama features several episodes where the Harlem Globetrotters appear as brilliant scientists, as well as basketball players. It is also indicated that they are in fact an alien race, as they live on another planet (the Globetrotter Homeworld). Ironically, the Harlem Globetrotters depicted react harshly to anyone who "laughs at their antics" as evidenced in the episode Time Keeps On Slippin'.
  • In The Simpsons episode " Homie The Clown" Krusty bets all his money (later revealed to be a mere $48) against the Harlem Globetrotters and loses, claiming that 'I thought the Generals were due!'
  • Hell's Kitchen features one episode aired on March 12, 2009, where the chefs cooked for a boy's Bar Mitzvah. As part of his gift, the Harlem Globetrotters performed for the boy in the restaurant, as its theme was basketball.
  • Jon & Kate Plus 8 features an episode aired on March 24, 2009, where the Gosselins went to a Harlem Globetrotters game. The Globetrotters picked Cara to be in the show. The Gosselins also had a meet-and-greet with the players.
  • The Best Show on WFMU featured a parody call from a member of the Washington Generals on an episode airing April 28th, 2009.
  • The Bachelorette featured a group date with the contestants playing basketball against bachelorette Jillian and the Globetrotters, airing on May 25, 2009.

1970s Heyday Roster

  • 36: Meadowlark Lemon (1955-80; 1994)
  • 22: Curly Neal (1963-95)
  • 12: Twiggy Sanders (1974-91)
  • 20: Marques Haynes (1972-79)
  • 35: Hubert "Geese" Ausbie (1961-85)
  • 18: Jimmy Blacklock
  • 14: Bobby Joe Mason (1962-76)
  • 41: "Sweet Lou" Dunbar (1975-05)
  • 39: Frank Stephens
  • 38: Bobby Hunter
  • 32: Nate Branch
  • 34: Theodis Lee
  • 15: Tyler Anderson

Additional players who played with the team during the 1970s included Dallas Thornton, Robert "Baby Face" Paige, Tex Harrison, Mel Davis, Ovie Dotson, Doug Himes, Bill Meggett, Sterling Forbes, Lionel Garrett, Sam Drummer, Lee Holman, Clarence Smith, Reggie Franklin and Larry "Gator" Rivers.

Retired numbers

The Globetrotters have retired five numbers to date:

  • 13: Wilt Chamberlain; March 9, 2000
  • 20: Marques Haynes; January 5, 2001
  • 22: Curly Neal; February 15, 2008
  • 36: Meadowlark Lemon; January 5, 2001
  • 50: Reece Tatum; February 8, 2002

Honorary Harlem Globetrotters

These eight people have been officially named as honorary members by the team:

  • Henry Kissinger (1976)
  • Bob Hope (1977)
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1989)
  • Whoopi Goldberg (1990)
  • Nelson Mandela (1996)
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1999)
  • Pope John Paul II (2000) - Press agent Lee Solters arranged a ceremony orchestrated in front of a crowd of 50,000 in Saint Peter's Square in which the Pope was recognized as an honorary Globetrotter.
  • Jesse Jackson (2001)

In addition, Bill Cosby (in 1972) and Magic Johnson (in 2003) have been signed to $1 a year lifetime contracts with the Globetrotters. Cosby's was increased to $1.05 in 1986.

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