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17 Facts About The Harlem Globetrotters

The following is reprinted from the book Uncle John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader.

(Image credit: Doha Stadium Plus Qatar)

Ever seen the Harlem Globetrotters play? Millions have. With tricks, acrobatics, and amazing basketball skills, they turned sports into entertainment.

* The team began in 1926 as an independent touring team called the Savoy Big Five, named after a Chicago district.

* For their first game, the team wore jerseys that read “New York” because their owner Abe Saperstein figured people would believe they were world-class athletes if they were from New York.

* They were renamed the Harlem Globetrotters in 1929 -Harlem because most of the team was African-American, Globetrotters to create the (false) image of “experience.”

* By 1940 they’d played 2,000 games and dominated whatever team they played, including high school teams, college teams, and semipro squads. Their record that season: 159-8.

* One night in 1939, the Globetrotters were leading their opponent 112 to 5. The crowd was bored, so Globetrotter Inman Jackson started fooling around on the court, doing finger rolls, taking (and making) full- and half-court shots, shooting from under his leg, and throwing crazy passes to teammates. The crowd loved it. Saperstein told the team to do that every night.

* In a February 1948 exhibition, the Globetrotters beat the NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers. The game is credited to leading the NBA to begin admitting black players in 1950.

(YouTube link)

* By 1953 the Globetrotters were so good that nobody would play them anymore. Saperstein had a friend named Red Klotz who owned a semipro basketball team called the Philadelphia Sphas. He asked Klotz to take the team on the road as the Globetrotters’ permanent opponent. The same players took the court every night, but wore different jerseys to create the illusion of different teams, including the Boston Shamrocks, Baltimore Rockets, New York Nationals, Atlantic City Seagulls, New Jersey reds, and their most famous incarnation, the Washington Generals.

* In 1958 the team was at the peak of its popularity, and four different squads toured the world. That year Saperstein drafted Wilt Chamberlain, who played with the Globetrotters for a year before leaving to become one of the NBA’s all-time greats. (Image credit: Fred Palumbo)

* During the 1960s civil rights movement, some civil rights leaders criticized the Globetrotters, calling them “Uncle Toms” for pleasing white crowds with “clowning” and “buffoonery.” Another civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, disagreed. “They don’t shows blacks as stupid,” he said. “On the contrary, they show them as superior.”

* More than 40 years after the team’s formation, the Globetrotters played their first ever game in Harlem, New York, in 1968.



* In the 1970s, the Globetrotters were so popular that they went Hollywood. Team members voiced themselves in two different Saturday morning cartoon shows: The Harlem Globetrotters and Super Globetrotters. The team played itself in the 1981 live-action made-for-TV movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.

* The Globetrotters have played in more than 25,000 games- more than any other team in any sport in history. (All-time record: approximately 22,000 wins and 330 losses.) More than 125 million people in 120 countries have seen a Globetrotters game.



* The Globetrotters games are all considered exhibition games (they’re not in a league and the games don’t count), but since the players are paid and the games aren’t fixed, the Globetrotters are considered a professional team.

* In 1985 the team signed two women, Olympic gold medal winners Lynette Woodward and Joyce Walker, making them the first American female professional basketball players.

* In its early barnstorming days, the team lost often. from the 1960s on, losses have been rare. In 1971 the Globetrotters got too wrapped up in the stunts and lost to the New Jersey Reds 100-99. Last loss: by four points in 2006 to a team of college all-stars.

* Memorable Globetrotters: Curly Neal, Meadowlark Lemon, Goose Tatum, Twiggy Sanders, and Sweet Lou Dunbar.

* Famous people who have been made “honorary” Globetrotters: Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Henry Kissinger, Whoopi Goldberg, Kereen Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Hope, Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II.

(YouTube link

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The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader. The Bathroom Readers' Institute has sailed the seas of science, history, pop culture, humor, and more to bring you Uncle John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader. Our all-new 21st edition is overflowing with over 500 pages of material that is sure to keep you fully absorbed.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute has published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. Check out their website here: Bathroom Reader Institute.


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