The Harlem Globetrotters are celebrating their 85th year of existence in 2011. Founded in 1926, even before the NBA started entertaining basketball fans, the Harlem Globetrotters have played over 25,000 games and entertained millions.
Here’s a brief history at the most famous basketball team in the world.
Abe Saperstein founded the original Harlem Globetrotters under the moniker the “Savoy Big Five” in Chicago in 1926. A ballroom in Chicago was falling on hard times due to Prohibition and they needed a way to draw in more money and big crowds. Exhibition basketball games at the Savoy Ballroom in South Park began with five basketball players named Walter “Toots” Wright, Byron “Fat” Long, Inman Jackson, William “Kid” Oliver and Albert “Runt” Pullins.
The team took to the road in 1927 wearing uniforms that said “New York” on them. Each player was paid $75 per game. Traveling in a cramped Model T Ford owned by Saperstein, the Harlem Globetrotters embarked on their first tour of Illinois in the winter of 1927.
Since that time, 30 players have been named legends including 2011 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Reece Tatum. Tatum is also one of five Globetrotters to have his number retired. Several hundred players have had the honor to call themselves Harlem Globetrotters in their careers.
Today, 24 players are on the current roster who travel all over the world. They come from all walks of life and all over the United States from Idaho and Wyoming to New York. They range in height from 5’8″ tall all the way up to 6’9″ in height. No matter how big they are, every member of the Harlem Globetrotters is entertaining and hard-working.
The first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters was Lynette Woodard in 1985. She was with the organization for two years and paved the way for other female players such as Joyce Walker and Sandra Hodge.
Even the Globetrotters’ regular opponent, the Washington Generals, picked up a female player in Nancy Lieberman in 1988. The New York Times reported the Globetrotters expanded into a family show the day they invited women onto their team.
Even with all the trick shots, artistry and slam dunks at Globetrotters games, the message is simple. Bringing fun, awe and laughter to the world serves a great purpose in putting smiles on children’s faces. For 270 games a year, the hard work and dedication of some of the best basketball players in the world is well worth the time having spent perfecting their craft.
William Browning is a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder ever since the team relocated from Seattle. As the closest NBA team to Branson, Mo., the Thunder serve as the regional team for southwest Missouri.