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MORE INFO ON THE HARLEM GLOBE-TROTTERS: The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater and comedy. Created by Abe Saperstein in 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, the team adopted the name Harlem because of its connotations as a major black community. The executive offices for the team are currently in downtown Phoenix, Arizona; the team is owned by Shamrock Holdings, which oversees the various investments of the Roy E. Disney family.
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.
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 took place in 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. 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 center 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.
One of the first star players 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 ft 3 in Inman Jackson, who played center 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 color 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.
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, 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 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.
In January 1952, the Harlem Globetrotters lost to the Seattle University Chieftains (now Redhawks) in an upset, 84-81. 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 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).
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. 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 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. Five years later, following another 1270 wins, they lost 72?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, 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. 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, where 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, a winning percentage of 98.4%. According to the Globetrotters' website, all of the Globetrotters' exhibition games are real games.
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 Marques Haynes 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).
- In 1958, as captain of the Globetrotters, Clarence Wilson appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show What's My Line?.
- 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 (Gilligan) 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 are disqualified, and Gilligan and the Skipper have to substitute for the players.
The animated television series Futurama features several episodes in which the Harlem Globetrotters appear as brilliant scientists as well as basketball players. They live 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'".
The Globetrotters appeared in the 2000 comedy Little Nicky with Adam Sandler, where they are shown losing to the Washington Generals, which is caused by Nicky's demonic brothers.
On September 27, 2009, Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nate "Big Easy" Lofton participated in the 15th season of The Amazing Race, finishing fourth out of twelve teams, having forfeited a task in the penultimate leg. They returned for the show's 18th season which is subtitled "Unfinished Business", featuring fan favorite teams who lost the competition due to various circumstances. The pair finished 2nd overall, narrowly failing 1st place.
As part of the cross-promotion of the show, 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.
On an episode of the television show 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan's character lies to other characters that the Globetrotters will make an appearance at a party. Despite the fact that it was a lie, apparently one Globetrotter does indeed attend the party.
- In October 2009 it was announced that a new Harlem Globetrotters animated series was to be produced.
- In 2009 and 2010, members of the Harlem Globetrotters appeared on the nationally-televised McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, IL.
On December 5, 2010 in a game televised on ESPN2 against the Washington Generals from HP Field House at Disney World in Orlando, the game saw several landmark events occur. A 4-point shot may be scored from the four point circle 35 feet away from the basket, with three minutes or less 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.
- The Globetrotters appeared in the second episode of the ninth season of Family Guy.
The Globetrotters have retired five numbers to date:
Honorary Harlem Globetrotters