Harlem Globetrotters

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Sports teams

Harlem Globetrotters
Harlem Globetrotters logo
Founded 1926
League Independent
Team History New York HarlemGlobetrotters
Harlem Globetrotters
Arena N/A
Based in Phoenix, Arizona
Team Colors Red, White, & Blue
Owner Mannie Jackson
Head Coach Henry Clark
Tellis Frank
Charles Harrison
Clyde Sinclair
Mike St. Julien
Division Titles
Mascot Globie

The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism and comedy to create one of the best-known sports entertainment franchises in the world.

Created by Abe Saperstein in 1927 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, mostly against deliberately ineffective opponents, such as the Washington Generals (1953–1995) and the New York Nationals (1995–present).

Brother Bones' whistled version of " Sweet Georgia Brown" is the team's signature song.

Early history

There is no clear consensus as to the very beginnings of the Globetrotters. The official history contains several details which are clearly untrue, 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, if not all of the original players attended Wendell Phillips High School. When the Savoy Ballroom opened in November of 1927, one of the premier attractions was the Savoy Big Five, a basketball team that played exhibitions before dances. 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 winter. A white man named 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 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 6'4" 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 1937, they accepted an invitation to participate in the World Professional Baketball 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 they 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 31-25.

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. Momentum for ending the NBA's colour line grew, and in 1950, Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted by an NBA team. From that time on the Globetrotters had increasing difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.

Finding success

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 (National Basketball Association) greats Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, as well as Marques Haynes, George "Meadowlark" Lemon, Jerome James, former Temple coach John Chaney, and Reece "Goose" Tatum. 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, Ferguson Jenkins and Lou Brock 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 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."

Eugene "Killer" Edgerson of the Harlem Globetrotters goes up for a layup
Eugene "Killer" Edgerson of the Harlem Globetrotters goes up for a layup

Modern era

During the 1970s and 1980s, the team was controlled by Metromedia and, in addition to their touring and playing the Washington Generals or the New York Nationals, were featured in numerous television series and specials, including appearances in live-action variety shows and several Hanna-Barbera cartoons (see "Media" section below).

After a period of decline the Globetrotters franchise was purchased by former team member Mannie Jackson in 1993, and its fortunes revived again. In 2002 the team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

To try to offset the criticism that they do not play "real basketball", in recent years the Trotters have scheduled games against college teams and pickup teams like Magic Johnson's All Stars with varying results. This renews a tradition of playing NBA teams, which the Globetrotters did during the 1950s.

The Harlem Globetrotters visited Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in November of 2000 and named the Pontiff an Honorary Harlem Globetrotter. In addition to this, James Knight was also made a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. More recently the Harlem Globetrotters visited troops in Iraq where they played in a series of matches in local courts.

Winning streaks and rare defeats

After losing to the Washington Generals in 1962, the Harlem Globetrotters only lost 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 the Atlantic City Seagulls. On January 5, 1971 they lost in Martin, Tennessee in overtime to the New Jersey Reds; the 100-99 score ended a 2,495-game winning streak.

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 a run of 8,829 straight victories in going back to 1971. The 48-year-old Abdul-Jabbar scored 34 points. 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, which was only the 333rd defeat in the team's history. 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 - still a winning percentage of 98.5%.

The Globetrotters claim all its exhibition games are "real, competitive" contests.

Harlem Globetrotters in films and television

The Harlem Globetrotters have 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 and fall hopelessly behind in points until the Professor advises the team to use their comedic style of play to win, which hopelessly confuses the machines.
  • 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, Phil Jackson and Henry Kissinger — himself an honorary Globetrotter — and including photos of the Globetrotters with the late Pope John Paul II.

Other appearances

Former Globetrotter Mel Davis was the subject of the short documentary Hardwood, directed by his son, Hubert Davis. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 2006.

A contestant on the April 6, 2007, episode of the NBC game show Identity correctly identified "Stranger" #12 as being Eugene Edgerson.

The Harlem Globetrotters have made multiple appearances on the animated show Futurama. These episodes feature fictional Globetrotters like Ethan "Bubblegum" Tate (played by Phil LaMarr). In the 31st century, it seems that the Globetrotters have a planet all their own, and in the episode " Time Keeps on Slippin'", the Globetrotter Homeworld challenges Earth to a basketball game (for absolutely no stakes beyond the shame of defeat). At one point in the series, "Bubblegum" declares everyone in the room an honorary Globetrotter; the only one to miss out - despite the fact that it was his dream to become one - was Bender.

Retired numbers

The Globetrotters have retired four numbers to date:

  • 13 - Wilt Chamberlain; March 9, 2000
  • 20 - Marques Haynes; January 5, 2001
  • 36 - Meadowlark Lemon; January 5, 2001
  • 50 - Reece Tatum; February 8, 2002

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