|Location||Downtown Phoenix Central and Jefferson St.|
|Team colors||Blue, red, white |
|Ownership||Herschend Family Entertainment|
The Harlem Globetrotters are an American exhibition basketball team. They combine athleticism, theater, and comedy in their style of play. Created in 1926 by Tommy Brookins 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 26,000 exhibition games in 124 countries and territories, mostly against deliberately ineffective opponents, such as the Washington Generals (1953–1995, since 2015) and the New York Nationals (1995–2015). The team's signature song is Brother Bones' whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown", and their mascot is an anthropomorphized globe named "Globie". The team is owned by Herschend Family Entertainment.
The Globetrotters originated on the South Side of Chicago in 1926, where all the original players were raised. The Globetrotters began as the Savoy Big Five, one of the premier attractions of the Savoy Ballroom, opened in January 1928, a basketball team of Black American players that played exhibitions before dances due to declining dance attendance.In 1928, several players left the team in a dispute. That autumn, those players, led by Tommy Brookins, formed a team called the "Globe Trotters" and toured southern Illinois that spring. Abe Saperstein became involved with the team as its manager and promoter. By 1929, Saperstein was touring Illinois and Iowa with his basketball team called the "New York Harlem Globe Trotters". Saperstein selected the name Harlem because it was then considered the center of Black American culture and the name Globetrotter to mythologize the team's international venues.
The Globetrotters were perennial participants in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, winning it in 1940. In a heavily attended matchup a few years later, the 1948 Globetrotters–Lakers game, the Globetrotters made headlines when they beat one of the best white basketball teams in the country, the Minneapolis Lakers. The Globetrotters continued to easily win games due to Harlem monopolizing the entire talent pool of the best black basketball players in the country. Once one of the most famous teams in the country, the Globetrotters were eventually eclipsed by the rise of the National Basketball Association, particularly when NBA teams began fielding black players in the 1950s. equivalent to $141,000in 2021), with Harlem getting $10,000 and Clifton getting $2,500.In 1950, Harlem Globetrotter Chuck Cooper became the first black player to be drafted in the NBA by Boston and teammate Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton became the first black player to sign an NBA contract when the New York Knicks purchased his contract from the Globetrotters for $12,500 (
The Globetrotters gradually worked comic routines into their act—a direction the team has credited to Reece "Goose" Tatum,who joined in 1941—and eventually 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 unusually difficult shots.
In 1952, the Globetrotters invited Louis "Red" Klotz to create a team to accompany them on their tours. This team, the Washington Generals (who also played under various other names), became the Globetrotters' primary opponents. The Generals are effectively stooges for the Globetrotters, with the Globetrotters handily defeating them in thousands of games.
In 1959, the Globetrotters played nine games in Moscow after Saperstein received an invitation from Vasily Grigoryevich, the director of Lenin Central Stadium.The team, which included Wilt Chamberlain, was welcomed enthusiastically by spectators and authorities, they met Premier Nikita Khrushchev and collectively received the Athletic Order of Lenin medal.
However, according to one report, spectators were initially confused: "A Soviet audience of 14,000 sat almost silently, as if in awe, through the first half of the game. It warmed up slightly in the second half when it realized the Trotters are more show than competition."The Globetrotters brought their own opponent—not the Washington Generals, but the San Francisco Chinese Basketeers. A review in Pravda stated, "This is not basketball; it is too full of tricks" but praised the Globetrotters' skills and suggested that "they have some techniques to show us".
The American press—particularly Drew Pearson—made note of the fact that the Globetrotters were paid (per game) the equivalent of $4,000 (equivalent to $37,000in 2021), which could be spent only in Moscow. The games were used as evidence that U.S.–Soviet relations were improving, that Moscow was backing off its criticism of race relations inside America, and that the USSR was becoming more capitalist (Pearson suggested that the games were held because Lenin Stadium needed money).
In May 1967, New York City–based Metromedia announced that it would acquire the Globetrotters for $1 million, but the deal was never completed and the team was later sold to George N. Gillett Jr., who soon formed a new company called Globetrotter Communications in 1968.
Nine years after the company's attempted acquisition in 1976, Metromedia announced that it would re-acquire the Globetrotters for $11 million from Globetrotter Communications.
Many famous basketball players have played for the Globetrotters. Greats such as "Wee" Willie Gardner, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins, Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton later joined the NBA. The Globetrotters signed their first female player, Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard, in 1985.
Because nearly all of the team's players have been black, and as a result of the buffoonery involved in many of the Globetrotters' skits, they drew some criticism during the Civil Rights era. The players were accused by some civil-rights advocates of "Tomming for Abe," a reference to Uncle Tom and 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."
In 1986, as part of the spin-off of Metromedia's television stations to News Corporation and the 20th Century Fox film studio, the company sold the Globetrotters and the Ice Capades to the Minneapolis-based International Broadcasting Corporation (owners of KTAB-TV in Abilene, Texas and controlled by Thomas Scallen) for $30 million.
In 1993, former Globetrotters player Mannie Jackson purchased the team from the International Broadcasting Corporation, which was on the verge of bankruptcy.
In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic player on the team. He was the first non-black player on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942–43.
While parts of a modern exhibition game are pre-planned, the games themselves are not fixed. While their opponents do not interfere with the Globetrotters' hijinks while on defense, they play a serious game when in possession of the ball and about 20 to 30 percent of a game is "real." This once led to an infamous defeat at the hands of the Washington Generals in 1971, to the distress of the watching crowd, after the Globetrotters lost track of a big lead with their tricks and the Generals hit a game-winning buzzer-beater.
In September 2005, Shamrock Holdings purchased 80% stake in the Globetrotters.
In October 2013, Herschend Family Entertainment announced that it would acquire the Globetrotters from Shamrock Holdings.
In June 2021, the Globetrotters filed a petition to join the National Basketball Association (NBA) as an expansion franchise.
Starting in 2007, the Globetrotters have conducted an annual "draft" a few days before the NBA draft, in which they select players they feel fit the mold of a Globetrotter. Being drafted by the Globetrotters does not guarantee a spot on the team, although several drafted players have gone on to become Globetrotters: Anthony "Ant" Atkinson (2007), Brent Petway (2007), William "Bull" Bullard (2008), Tay "Firefly" Fisher (2008), Charlie Coley III (2009), Paul "Tiny" Sturgess (2011), Jacob "Hops" Tucker (2011), Darnell "Spider" Wilks (2011), Bryan "B-Nice" Narcisse (2012), Tyrone Davis (2013), Corey "Thunder" Law (2013), Tyler "Iceman" Inman (2014) Devan "Beast" Douglas (2016), and AJ "Money" Merriweather.
Other notable draft picks by the Globetrotters include: Sun Mingming (2007), Patrick Ewing Jr. (2008), Sonny Weems (2008), Taylor Griffin (2009), Tim Howard (2009), Mark Titus (2010), Lionel Messi (2011), Jordan McCabe, then 12 years old (2011), Andrew Goudelock (2011), Usain Bolt (2012), Mariano Rivera (2013), Brittney Griner (2013), Johnny Manziel (2014), Landon Donovan (2014), Mo'ne Davis (2015), Dude Perfect (2015), Kevin Hart (2016), Neymar (2016), Missy Franklin (2016), Jordan Spieth (2016), Craig Sager (2016), Gal Gadot (2017), Aaron Judge (2017), Tim Tebow (2017), Paul Pogba (2018), Joseph Kilgore (2018), Thor Bjornsson (2018), Mahershala Ali (2019), Mookie Betts (2020), and Chadwick Boseman (2020).
The Globetrotters have honored eight players by retiring their numbers:
|Harlem Globetrotters retired numbers|
|13||Wilt Chamberlain||1958–59||March 9, 2000|
|20||Marques Haynes||1947–53, 1972–79||January 5, 2001|
|22||Fred "Curly" Neal||1963–85||February 15, 2008|
|34||Charles "Tex" Harrison||1954–72||December 26, 2017|
|35||Hubert "Geese" Ausbie||1961–85||January 31, 2017|
|36||Meadowlark Lemon||1954–79, 1993||January 5, 2001|
|41||"Sweet" Lou Dunbar||1977–current||February 15, 2019|
|50||Goose Tatum||1941–43, 1945–55||February 8, 2002|
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Ten people have been officially named as honorary members of the team:
In addition, Bill Cosby (1972) and Magic Johnson (2003) were each signed to honorary $1-a-year lifetime contracts with the Globetrotters.When Cosby's nominal association with the team was the subject of criticism following sexual assault allegations, the Globetrotters stated that they had had no association with him for decades.
The American Basketball League played one full season, 1961–1962, and part of the next season until the league folded on December 31, 1962. The ABL was the first basketball league to have a three-point field goal for shots scored far away from the goal. Other rules that set the league apart were a 30-second shooting clock and a wider free throw lane of 18 feet instead of the standard 12.
Abraham Michael Saperstein was the founder, owner and earliest coach of the Harlem Globetrotters. Saperstein was a leading figure in black basketball and baseball from the 1920s through the 1950s, primarily before those sports were racially integrated.
The Washington Generals are an American basketball team who play exhibition games against the Harlem Globetrotters. The team has also played under several different aliases in their history as the Globetrotters' perennial opponents.
Meadow Lemon III, known professionally as Meadowlark Lemon, was an American basketball player, actor, and Christian minister. Beginning in 1994, he ran Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in Scottsdale, Arizona. For 22 years, he was known as the "Clown Prince" of the touring Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. He played in more than 16,000 games for the Globetrotters and was a 2003 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Chicago Stags were a National Basketball Association team based in Chicago from 1946 to 1950.
Charles Henry Cooper was an American professional basketball player. He and two others, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton and Earl Lloyd, became the first African-American players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1950. Cooper was also the first African-American to be drafted by an NBA team, as the first pick of the second round by the Boston Celtics. Cooper was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 9, 2019.
The Philadelphia Tapers were an American professional basketball team that played a partial 1962–1963 season in the American Basketball League (1961–62). It traces its history to the 1950s AAU New York Tapers.
Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton was an American professional basketball and baseball player. He is best known as one of the first African Americans to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Reece "Goose" Tatum was an American Negro league baseball and basketball player. In 1942, he was signed to the Harlem Globetrotters and had an 11-year career with the team. He later formed his own team known as the Harlem Magicians with former Globetrotters player Marques Haynes. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Tatum's number 50 is retired by the Globetrotters.
Norman Henry Baker was a Canadian professional basketball and lacrosse player.
Marques Haynes was an American professional basketball player and member of the Harlem Globetrotters, notable for his ability to dribble the ball and keep it away from defenders. According to the 1988 film Harlem Globetrotters: Six Decades of Magic, Haynes could dribble the ball as many as 348 times a minute.
Kris Marcus Bruton is an American professional basketball player. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the 1994 NBA Draft, he was with the Bulls for two pre-seasons before a serious thigh injury ended his career. Bruton never appeared in a regular-season NBA game for the Bulls. After recuperating, he was recruited by the Harlem Globetrotters, carving a niche on the court as a slam dunk expert.
Louis Herman "Red" Klotz was an American professional basketball player. He was a National Basketball Association (NBA) point guard with the original Baltimore Bullets, and he was best known for forming the teams that play against and tour with the Harlem Globetrotters: the Washington Generals and the New York Nationals. He was the oldest-living NBA champion.
George Raff Brown was an American basketball player for the Minneapolis Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball at Wayne State University. Brown was selected by the Lakers in the fourth round of the 1957 NBA draft. He played one game for the Lakers. He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters and later in the Midwest Professional Basketball League.
Basketball began with its invention in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, by Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith as a less injury-prone sport than football. Naismith was a 31-year old graduate student when he created the indoor sport to keep athletes indoors during the winters. The game became established fairly quickly and grew very popular as the 20th century progressed, first in America and then in other parts of the world. After basketball became established in American colleges, the professional game followed. The American National Basketball Association (NBA), established in 1946, grew to a multibillion-dollar enterprise by the end of the century, and basketball became an integral part of American culture.
Wyatt "Sonny" Boswell was an early African American professional basketball player. He was born in Greenville, Mississippi and grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where he attended Scott High School. He played for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1943 to 1944.
"Jumpin" Jackie Jackson was an American professional basketball player. Jackson was one of the first streetball legends in the Rucker Playground Basketball Tournaments in New York City in the early 1960s. He went on to a 20-year career with the Harlem Globetrotters, earning his nickname by allegedly snatching a quarter from the top of a basketball backboard on a bet.
Tony LeonDre Wroten Jr. is an American professional basketball player. He played college basketball for the Washington Huskies, where he was a first-team all-conference selection in the Pac-12, before being drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 25th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Robert M. Hahn was a professional basketball player who spent one season in the National Basketball Association as a member of the Chicago Stags during the 1949–50 season. He attended North Carolina State University.
The 1948 Globetrotters–Lakers game was a dramatic match-up between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Minneapolis Lakers. Played in Chicago Stadium, the game took place two years before professional basketball was desegregated. The Globetrotters' 61–59 victory – by two points at the buzzer – challenged prevailing racial stereotypes about the abilities of black athletes.