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Harlem Globetrotters

Harlem Globetrotters
Harlem Globetrotters logo
Leagues Independent
Founded 1926
History 1926–27: Chicago GlobeTrotters
1928–29: New York Harlem Globetrotters
1929–present: Harlem Globetrotters
Arena Barnstorming team
Location Harlem, New York (front office in Phoenix, Arizona)
Team colors Blue, Red, White
President Kurt Schneider (CEO)
Jeff Munn (COO)
Nickolas Cardinale (GM)
Head coach Holly Freeburg (head coach)
Jimmy Blacklock (coach)
Lou Dunbar (coach)
Barry Hardy (coach)
Tex Harrison (consultant)
Ownership Herschend Family Entertainment
Website .com.harlemglobetrotterswww
Home jersey
Team colours
Away jersey
Team colours

The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater, and comedy. The executive offices for the team are located in downtown Phoenix, Arizona; in October 2013, Shamrock Holdings sold the team for an undisclosed amount of money to current owners Herschend Family Entertainment.[1]

Over the years they have played more than 20,000 exhibition games in 120

Today there are at least three different Harlem Globetrotters teams touring the country.[2]


  • History 1
    • Moscow games 1.1
    • Finding success 1.2
    • Winning streaks and rare defeats 1.3
  • Draft 2
  • Retired numbers 3
  • Summer skills clinics 4
  • In popular culture 5
    • Honorary members 5.1
  • Bibliography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The official history[3] contains several details which seem contradictory, such as the team being organized in 1926 in Chicago's Savoy Ballroom, which opened in 1927.[4] What is clear is that the genesis of the Globetrotters took place on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, 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, Illinois, was home to the first Harlem Globetrotters game on January 7, 1927.[5] 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" that 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 decided to pick Harlem as their home city, since Harlem was considered the center of African-American culture at the time and an out-of-town team name would give the team more of a mystique.[6] After four decades, the Globetrotters played their first "home" game in Harlem in 1968.

Moscow games

In 1959, the Globetrotters played nine games in Moscow after Saperstein received an invitation from Vasily Gricorevich, the director of Lenin Central Stadium.[7] The team, which included Wilt Chamberlain, was welcomed enthusiastically by spectators and authorities; they met Premier Nikita Khrushchev[8] and collectively received the Athletic Order of Lenin medal.[9] (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.")[10] The Globetrotters brought their own opponent—not the Washington Generals, but the San Francisco Chinese Basketeers.[7] 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."[11]

The American press—particularly Drew Pearson—made note of the fact that the Globetrotters were paid (per game) the equivalent of $4000, 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).[12][13]

Finding success

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

The Globetrotters were perennial participants in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, winning it in 1940. Once one of the best teams in the country, the Globetrotters were eclipsed by the rise of the National Basketball Association, particularly when NBA teams began fielding African-American players in the 1950s.[14] The Globetrotters gradually worked comic routines into their act—a direction the team has credited to Reece "Goose" Tatum,[15] who joined in 1941—and eventually became known more for entertainment than sports.[16] 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.[17]

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 Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon, Jerome James, Reece "Goose" Tatum, 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 owing 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.[18]

Because almost 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 by some civil rights advocates of "Tomming for Abe", a reference to Uncle Tom and Jewish 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."[14] In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic and the first nonblack on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942–43.[19]

Winning streaks and rare defeats

The Globetrotters playing with some spectators

One of the original losses for the Globetrotters was to the Sheldon Orabs, who were led by William DeKraai in the 1940s. In January 1952, the Harlem Globetrotters lost to the Seattle University Chieftains (now Redhawks) in an upset, 84–81.[20] After a loss to the Washington Generals in 1962 alleged by Generals owner Red Klotz, the Harlem Globetrotters lost only three more games in the next 50 years (5,983 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, to the New Jersey Reds 100–99 in overtime; that ended an alleged 2,495-game winning streak (which would mean that the Globetrotters were playing 277 games per year up until that date). Another loss came against the Elmwood Yellow Jackets.[21] The Globetrotters ended up losing after three over-times 36–34.

In addition to their hundreds of exhibition games, the Globetrotters slowly returned to competitive basketball after 1993 under the new ownership of former player Mannie Jackson.[22] 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 going back to 1971. The 48-year-old Abdul-Jabbar scored 34 points. The 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 because multiple team lineups tour as The Globetrotters to allow for a greater number of exhibitions.[23]

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Commander, Richard Hunt, meets with the Globetrotters in Djibouti (2006)
The Globetrotters in Salzburg (2007)
Jimmy "Happy" Twyman teaches the basic fundamentals of basketball at the Naval Base Kitsap Admiral Boorda Center in 2007

The Globetrotters won the other 10 games during that European tour. Five years later, following another 1,270 wins, they lost 72 to 68 to Michigan State University, the reigning men's collegiate champions, on November 13, 2000.

Two years later, they "set aside the hallmarks" for a "three-week, no-nonsense tour against college teams" from men's Division One. "There are no ballhandling displays to the tune of "Sweet Georgia Brown," no buckets of water or confetti thrown, and no Washington Generals to act as their inept foils." On November 10 and 11 at Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland,[24] another defending champion, they lost close games to both teams, their first consecutive defeats since 1961. Yet the tour probably marked a decade of improvement as a competitive team.[22] On November 3, 2003, the Globetrotters had a streak of 288 consecutive victories snapped after suffering an 89–88 loss to the UTEP Miners, who had just six victories the season before. It was their only loss during an eight-game college tour wherein the Globetrotters had defeated Michigan State (97–83), UMass (77–68), and defending national champion Syracuse (83–70).

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, giving them a winning percentage of .985.


Starting in 2007, the Globetrotters have conducted an annual "draft" a few days before the NBA draft, in which they select players and invite them to join the team. The team does not speak beforehand to the players they select (some of whom are not even known as basketball players, such as Lionel Messi and Tim Howard), and only a few of the selected players eventually agree to join the Globetrotters.[25]

Notable draft picks by the Globetrotters include: Sun Mingming (2007), Brent Petway (2007), Patrick Ewing, Jr. (2008), Sonny Weems (2008), Taylor Griffin (2009), Tim Howard (2009), Mark Titus (2010), Lionel Messi (2011), Jermaine Abrahams (2011), Paul Sturgess (2011), Andrew Goudelock (2011), Mariano Rivera (2013), Brittney Griner (2013), Johnny Manziel (2014), Landon Donovan (2014), Mo'ne Davis (2015), Dude Perfect (2015).[25][26][27]

Retired numbers

A basketball player, wearing a blue jersey with the word
Wilt Chamberlain, the first Globetrotter to have his jersey number retired

The Globetrotters have honored six players by retiring their numbers:

Harlem Globetrotters retired number
No. Player Tenure Date retired
13 Wilt Chamberlain 1958–59 March 9, 2000
20 Coen Puckett Stuff Dec, 2000
36 Meadowlark Lemon 1954–79[28] January 5, 2001
50 Goose Tatum 1941–55[29] February 8, 2002
22 Fred "Curly" Neal 1963–85 February 15, 2008
3 Red Klotz (None) 1 March 13, 2011


  • 1 The first non-Globetrotter to have a number retired by the team was Red Klotz, the founder, owner and two-handed-set-shot artist for the Washington Generals, the long time Harlem Globetrotters' foils. He wore #3 as a player with the Generals, as well as during his standout collegiate and high school career in Philadelphia.[30][31]

Summer skills clinics

In 2012, the Globetrotters introduced their version of summer basketball camp called Summer Skills Clinics. Clinics are available for boys and girls (age 6–12) and are designed so that no experience is required. At clinics, kids get the opportunity to get coached by actual players on the team, learn tricks, drills, fundamentals and learn some important character-building messages delivered by the team. Their clinics have grown nationally every year and are located at 24 Hour Fitness centers across the country.

In popular culture

Soupy Sales and the Harlem Globetrotters from a 1969 television special

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

  • 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.[32]
  • On December 30, 1956, twelve members of the Globetrotters appeared as guest challengers on the TV panel show
  • Harlem Globetrotters, a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon, broadcast from September 12, 1970, to May 1973. Originally broadcast on CBS and later rerun on NBC as The Go-Go Globetrotters. The cartoon Globetrotters also guest-starred three times on The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Scatman Crothers provided the voice for Meadowlark Lemon's character on the show.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine, a 1974 live-action Saturday morning variety show starring the Globetrotters that featured comedy skits, blackout gags, and educational segments. The show was produced by Funhouse Productions and Yongestreet Productions for CBS. The show also starred Rodney Allen Rippy and Avery Schreiber.
  • 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 themselves 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.
  • In a 1979 episode of The White Shadow, the Globetrotters appear wherein Coach Reeves convinces the team to help him send his basketball team a reality check about overconfidence and underestimating their opponents as a result of a winning streak that got to his players heads. The Globetrotters returned in season three (1980), when star player Warren Coolidge, convinced that his basketball ability would 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 persuaded to finish his education before giving any thought to a basketball career.
  • 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. This makes 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 the team needs the help of Gilligan and Skipper to substitute.
  • In The Love Boat episode "Hoopla" (1984), the Globetrotters are on a cruise and challenged the crew to a game in the dining room.
  • The animated series Futurama features several episodes in which the Harlem Globetrotters appear as brilliant scientists as well as basketball players living on another planet, The Globetrotter Homeworld. Ironically, the Harlem Globetrotters react harshly to anyone who "laughs at their antics" as evidenced in the episode "Time Keeps On Slippin'" (2001).
  • The Globetrotters appeared in the 2000 comedy Little Nicky with Adam Sandler, wherein they are shown losing to the Washington Generals, which is caused by one of Nicky's demonic brothers.
  • Harlem Globetrotters: The Team that Changed the World, a 2005 documentary featuring interviews with the Globetrotters, NBA coaches, and fans such as Samuel L. Jackson, Barack Obama, Phil Jackson, and Henry Kissinger—himself an honorary Globetrotter[33]—and including photos of the Globetrotters with Pope John Paul II.
  • In The Amazing Race: season 15 (2009), Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nathaniel "Big Easy" Lofton participated, finishing fourth place. They returned for season 18 (2010), which is subtitled "Unfinished Business," featuring fan favorite teams who lost the competition because of various circumstances. The pair finished second overall. They also returned for season 24 (2014), dubbed an "All Star" season, featuring some of the shows fan favorites, this time finishing sixth.
  • As part of the cross-promotion of The Amazing Race, Lang and Lofton also appeared on CBS Daytime's game show The Price Is Right to model prizes (a Sport Court basketball court) and present a showcase.
  • In 2009 and 2010,[34][35] members of the Harlem Globetrotters appeared on the nationally-televised McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago.
  • In 2010, five members of the Globetrotters appeared on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? raising money for charity.
  • On December 5, 2010, in a game televised on ESPN2 against the Washington Generals from HP Field House at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, the game saw several landmark events occur. A four-point shot may be scored from the four-point circle 35 feet away from the basket, with three minutes or less to go in any quarter. A penalty box was introduced as the price to be paid for any 'funny business' by a player. The Globetrotters made the first, and most, of the four-point shots in the game. All of the penalties in this game were assessed to the Globetrotters. The visiting Globetrotters went on to beat the Generals 104–98 in this historical game of firsts.[36]
  • Three members of the Globetrotters appear in the "Harlem NY" episode (2011) of Man v. Food Nation, in which they have to defeat a spicy two-pound barbecue sandwich in 15 minutes.
  • Special K Daley, Ant Atkinson, and Blenda Rodriguez of the Globetrotters made a guest appearance in the October 18, 2011 episode of Sesame Street, in which they and Elmo talk about the number 3.[37]
  • In 2012, the Globetrotters made a special guest appearance on Disney XD's Kickin' It, in the episode "Eddie Cries Uncle".
  • Three members of the Globetrotters appeared in a February 28, 2012, episode of the Blendtec online video series Will It Blend?, wherein they help Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson and his Uncle Floyd blend miniature basketballs, glitter dust, a whistle, and a bottle of Gatorade. The team then pour the mixture into a bucket, magically turning it into confetti, which they throw on Dickson.[38]
  • Globetrotter Bull Bullard competed on season four of American Ninja Warrior. He advanced to the finals but timed out on the first stage of the finals.
  • Three members of the Harlem Globetrotters visited North Korea in 2013 along with Dennis Rodman and the VICE news team. It is seen in the HBO series, Vice.
  • On May 26, 2015, the Globetrotters appeared in a series premiere of I Can Do That.
  • Three members of the Harlem Globetrotters appeared in the Dog with a Blog episode "Cat with a Blog."[39]

Honorary members

These ten people have been officially named as honorary members by the team:[40]

In addition, Magic Johnson (in 2003) was signed to $1 a year lifetime contract with the Globetrotters.[43][44] In 2009, the Globetrotters drafted Tim Howard, the goalkeeper for the U.S. national soccer team and a former basketball player, to be an ambassador for the club.


  • Ben Green (2005), Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, New York: HarperCollins.


  1. ^ "AMUSEMENT PARK GIANT BUYS HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS". Associated Press. Retrieved 2 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Hardwood: Background". POV: Documentaries with a Point of View. Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "History of the team". Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  4. ^ Newman, Scott (2001-01-02). "Savoy Ballroom". Jazz Age Chicago. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  5. ^ Harlem Globetrotters website; Robert Peterson, Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years (University of Nebraska Press, 2002), p105
  6. ^ Smith, Jay. "Harlem Globetrotters". WTTW. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  7. ^ a b "Abe's 'Trotters Off to Moscow". Vancouver Sun. AP. 16 June 1959. p. 16. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "Khruschchev Surprises U.S. Cagers By Street". Victoria Advocate. AP. 9 July 1959. p. 15. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Cummings, Richard H. (30 January 2011). "Harlem Globetrotters and Nikita Khrushchev". Cold War Radios. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "Russians Baffled by Harlem Fun". Reading Eagle. UPI. 7 July 1959. p. 3. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  11. ^ "Globetrotters impress Soviets". Leader-Post. AP. 8 July 1959. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Pearson, Drew (30 July 1959). "US–USSR Relations Much Improved". Deseret News. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Pearson, Drew (11 September 1959). "Ike Should Go to Russia". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. p. 13. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Berkow, Ira (July 24, 2005). Spinning the Globe': Ball Hog Heaven"'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Our Story". The World Famous Harlem Globetrotters. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ Dupont, Kevin Paul (March 21, 2015). "Harlem Globetrotters keeping the fun in sports". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  17. ^ Flomberg, Deb (December 6, 2014). "The Harlem Globetrotters spin their way to Denver". AXS. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  18. ^ "It's a new spin: Harlem Globetrotters trying to put a high-tech gleam on a vintage product". Cleveland Plain Dealer. December 22, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  19. ^ Associated Press. "A Non-Black Player Joins Globetrotters". The New York Times. December 28, 1995.
  20. ^ "Seattle University Chieftains ... defeat Harlem Globetrotters ..." (Washington State History). No date. Confirmed 2010-06-21.
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Eskin, Blake. "Harlem Renaissance: Can the jesters of basketball break away from their Jim Crow roots and once again become kings of the court?" The Washington Post. March 2, 2003. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  23. ^ Covell, Jeffrey L. "Harlem Globetrotters International, Inc.". International Directory of Company Histories. Volume 61 (1990). Retrieved 2010-06-21.
  24. ^ "Postgame Quotes: Maryland vs. Harlem Globetrotters" from Maryland Athletics website
  25. ^ a b Patrick Dorsey, A brief history of the Harlem Globetrotters' draft picks, including Lionel Messi,, Published 2011-07-23, Accessed 2012-01-31.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Kate Fagan, [2],, Published 2013-06-25, Accessed 2013-06-25.
  28. ^ Biography of Meadowlark Lemon at his official website
  29. ^ "Harlem Globetrotter Reece ‘Goose’ Tatum To Be Enshrined In Basketball Hall of Fame", 4 Apr 2011
  30. ^ , 14 May 2014New York Times"Red Klotz, Beloved Foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, Dies at 93",
  31. ^ "Globetrotters mourn the passing of Red Klotz" at Harlem Globetrotters website
  32. ^  
  33. ^ Maurice Sorrell (January 1977). "The Week's Best Photos". JET 51 (17): 41–41. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "2010 2N Globetrotters". YouTube. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  36. ^ "Game Ball From Historic 4-Point Shot Headed to the Hall." Harlem Globetrotters. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  37. ^ "Harlem – Trotters Appear on ''Sesame Street''". 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  38. ^ Dickson, Tom (host) (28 February 2012). The Harlem Globetrotters (Television production).  
  39. ^ Dog With a Blog episode 322; Air Date 08/21/15 "Cat with a Blog" (DisneyABC Press)
  40. ^ David Blevins. (2012). "Harlem Globetrotters (Team)". The Sports Hall of Fame Encyclopedia: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Soccer. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press. pp. 415–417.  
  41. ^ Martin, Douglas. "Lee Solters, Razzle-Dazzle Press Agent, Dies at 89". The New York Times. May 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  42. ^ "Harlem Globetrotters Have an Audience with Pope Francis, Name Him Ninth Honorary Harlem Globetrotter in Team History". May 6, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 
  43. ^ Associated Press. "Johnson joins Globetrotters to defeat former team" ESPN November 2, 2003. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
  44. ^ Wolfe, Rich. For Mets Fans Only. Indy Tech Publishing. 2006. Page 98. ISBN 0-7906-1334-4.

External links

  • Official website
  • Interview with Billy Ray Hobley
  • Basketball Hall of Fame profile
  • Harlem Globetrotters PR in Ireland
  • Voices of Oklahoma interview with Marques Haynes. First person interview conducted with Marques Haynes on December 28, 2011. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.
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