The Harlem Globetrotters are an American basketball exhibition team. Their style of play combines athleticism, drama, and comedy. They do Basketball in pure comedy to entertain fans and make people in awe and laugh with their antics on the court in an uncompetitive basketball game. But did you know that the Harlem Globetrotters only recognized a single loss?
The Harlem Globetrotters had one officially documented loss from 1971, and numerous rumored losses from the 1950s were not recognized as such.
The Not So Harlem Origin of The GlobeTrotters
The team was founded on the south side of Chicago, 800 miles west of Harlem, despite its name. In 1926, a group of former basketball players from Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School reunited to establish the Giles Post American Legion basketball team, who traveled the Midwest barnstorming.
The following year, while playing home games as pre-dance entertainment at Chicago’s newly opened Savoy Ballroom, the group became known as the Savoy Big Five. Following a pay dispute, many players left the Savoy Big Five in 1928 to join the Globe Trotters, a new barnstorming club. (Source: History)
The Jewish Roots of the Chicago Harlem
Abe Saperstein of Chicago’s north side managed the newly created Globe Trotters. Saperstein, a superb promoter, renamed the team the New York Harlem Globetrotters to attract more fans in Illinois and Iowa by giving the idea that they had come a long distance to be there.
Saperstein, the shortest member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, also believed that including Harlem in the team’s name would help promote it as an all-Black basketball team during the Harlem Renaissance. The team did not play another game in Harlem until 1968. (Source: History)
The Serious Side of the GlobeTrotters
The Globetrotters began by playing straight-up basketball games, despite their current reputation for on-court theatrics. The squad lost the national championship game in 1939 to another all-Black team, the New York Renaissance, but won the World Professional Basketball Tournament the following year after defeating the Chicago Bruins.
Ball tricks and dribbling performances were not introduced into the Globetrotters’ games until the late 1930s. The Globetrotters stunned the basketball world in 1948 when they defeated the Minneapolis Lakers, champions of the all-white National Basketball League, which was the precursor to the NBA. The following year, they demonstrated it wasn’t a fluke by defeating the Lakers again. (Source: History)
Were the First African-American NBA Players, Former GlobeTrotters?
The Globetrotters’ triumphs over the Lakers highlighted African American basketball players’ prowess when, unlike professional baseball and football, the NBA had yet to integrate. Nat Sweetwater Clifton of the Harlem Globetrotters became the first African American player to sign a contract with an NBA team when he signed with the New York Knicks in May 1950. Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper, who also broke the color barrier in 1950, were Globetrotters players for a short time. (Source: History)
Who is the Most Famous Globetrotter?
After leaving the University of Kansas in 1958 after his junior year, Wilt Chamberlain signed a one-year deal with the Globetrotters, which was reported to be worth $50,000. He was quite popular and one of the most dominant players on the team. (Source: History)