Everybody knows the name and has heard of them but not many people know their whole story.
Who are they?
They are an American performance basketball team that combine sport, theatre and comedy into the style of play. They have played over 26,000 exhibition games in 124 countries and have played for over 148 million people. They play over 450 Live shows across the world, each year. The games they play are real but the Globetrotters play with their style.
Founded: 1926, 94 years ago
Ownership: Herschend Family Entertainment
Won/loss: won 27000, lost 345
Their longest winning streak was 8,829 games which lasted 24 years. This was their first loss since 1971.
They originated in Chicago, Illinois, in 1926 and began with the name ‘Savoy Big Five’. They would play home games as pre-dance entertainment. In 1928, several players left to create the new team known as the Globe Trotters. Abe Saperstein then became their manager and promoter. In 1929, they were touring Illinois and Iowa named, ‘New York Harlem Globe Trotters. Harlem was used because it was considered the centre of black culture at that time and globetrotter to show their international venues.
They were long-lasting participants in the World Professional Basketball Tournament which they won in 1940. In the 1948 Globetrotters-Lakers game, they made headlines by beating one of the best white, basketball teams.
In 1950, Globetrotter Chuck Cooper, was the first black player to get drafted into the NBA alongside Nathaniel Clifton who became the first black player to sign a contract with the NBA.
They originally played like a normal team until they gradually started introducing their new found style which they have since give Reece Tatum the credit for.
In 1952, they invited Louis Klotz to create a team that soon became known as the Washington Generals, though they did go by multiple names. This team became the Harlem Globetrotters main opponent and they have defeated them thousands of times.
In 1959, they were invited by Vasily Grigoryevich, to play in Moscow. They played 9 games and initially confused the spectators with their style of play but were eventually cheered on when they came to the realisation about what they were doing. These games were said to be used to show that the USA and Soviet relationships were improving, that Moscow were backing down with their comments on race relations in America, and that the USSR was becoming more capitalist. However some suggested that it was simply because the Lenin Stadium needed more money.
In 1985, they signed their first female player – Lynette Woodward, Olympic gold medalist. From then on they have featured 13 female players.
There was a lot of racial criticism during the civil rights era. They were said to be playing demeaning roles and accused of ‘Tomming for Abe’ which is in reference to the derogatory term Uncle Tom and the teams white owner, Abe Saperstein. However, Jesse Jackson, a civil rights activist and soon to be honorary Globetrotter, stated that he thought they’d been a positive influence and and didn’t show black people as stupid but instead, superior.
In 1995, they introduced their first Hispanic player, Orlando Antigua. He was the first non-black player since Bob Karstens in 1942-43.
Parts of the recent exhibition games are pre-planned but the games are not fixed. Although their opponents don’t interfere with their show plays whilst in defence, they are still serious games.
Since 2007, a couple days before the NBA draft the Globetrotters have done an annual ‘draft’. In this they select players they feel match the set feel of being a Globetrotter. Being drafted doesn’t secure you a spot on the team although many drafted players have gained the name of a Globetrotter. Examples are: Anthony Atkinson, Darnell Wilks, and Aj Merriweather.
Examples of well known drafted players are: Lionel Messi (captain of Barcelona and Argentine football teams), Usain Bolt (greatest sprinter, 8 time Olympic gold medalist), Dude Perfect (known for trick shots, 51.6mil subscribers on youtube), and Sun Mingming (tallest basketball player).
The Harlem Globetrotters film was released by Columbia Pictures in 1951. It included many Globetrotters and was broadcasted on tv in 2012.
The Harlem Globetrotters have appeared on television many times. These appearances include game shows, interviews, and live games. They’ve also appeared in many movies and talk/variety shows including the one they ran in 1974 called ‘The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine’ which featured many segments such as comedy and education. They had their own cartoon show called, ‘The Go-Go Globetrotters’ which aired from 1970-1973 and was produced by, the well known, Hannah-Barbera. Due to this they also appeared in the Scooby-Doo series.
They had a coin operated, pinball game named ‘Harlem Globetrotters on Tour’.
They also had a game named ‘Harlem Globetrotters World Tour’ which was made for the Game Boy Advanced and Nintendo DS.