Harlem Globetrotters Team
When I decided to write about the Globetrotters I began researching on the Internet. I have seen them several times but my watching and laughing won't help me write this hub. Anyway, I was amazed to learn they began 86 years ago. I know they've been around but didn't realize it was this long. Wait, you don't know who the Harlem Globetrotters are? Well, let's get into this hub and see how much trivia about the Globetrotters I can pack into it.
The Harlem Globetrotters are a professional exhibition basketball team. They don't play in tournaments, they don't try to win titles. They play to raise money, to make people laugh, and to show us their fantastic basketball skills and comedic talents. Not what you'd expect from a basketball team. If you've never seen them you may have at least heard their "theme" song whistled by Brother Bones; "Sweet Georgia Brown." (Brother Jones or Whistlin Sam as he was also called, was a shoe shine boy. He was heard by an executive at Tempo Records who convinced him to record his whistling Sweet Georgia Brown. When it was heard by the Globetrotters they adopted it as the 'song' played during their warm ups and it has been with them ever since.)
To me, the irony of the Harlem Globetrotters is that they originated in Chicago and they didn't play in Harlem until 1968.
In the beginning they did play professional teams. They actually beat the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948 and 1949. Just FYI it was the first time an all black basketball team beat an all white basketball team. Looks like things have changed a lot in basketball since then. Back then only "whites" could play professional basketball. Anyway, the Globetrotters were started by a 24 year old Abe Saperstein some say in 1927 and other say in 1929. (Interesting point, in the early days of the Globetrotters career when there was an injured player Abe would take his place. More interesting, Abe was only five foot five.) These guys were amazing and it wasn't long before they switched from professional basketball games to more comedic games that showed off their talents and precision. Their comedy and precision drills are legendary. It is said the Globetrotters only lost two games in thirty-eight years!
The original Globetrotters were Al "Runt" Pullins, Byron "Fat" Long, William "Kid" Oliver, and Andy Washington, soon joined by Inman Jackson. Later recruits included Gus Finney, Harry Ruzan, and Rock Anderson. It seems the first Globetrotter 'clown' was "Goose" Tatum noted for his leaping ability. One thing led to another and Goose began clowning around, the rest is history. Goose's number was retired in 2002. Other team members whose numbers have been retired include Wilt Chamberlain, Marques Haines, Curly Neal, and Meadowlark Lemon.
There is one team that they played more than any others, the Washington Generals. Sometime during the 1950s the Globetrotters must have decided it was easier to provide their own opponents and that's when they began playing the Generals. The Generals were like their "foil" (the straight man in a comedy team). The Generals lost more than 13,000 games to the Globetrotters. In 1995 the Globetrotters began playing against the New York Nationals and continue to do so to this day.
The most famous Globetrotters and the ones I remember best are Meadowlark Lemon, Wilt Chamberlain (signed in 1958) and Curly Neal probably because of their beginnings and popularity during my childhood and teens. They were especially popular during the 60s and 70s and the Globetrotters did a lot of TV specials during that time period as well.
As an aside, one of my daughters is a big sports fan. At a basketball game she was attending Wilt Chamberlain tried to get her phone number - at the time she was 25 he was in his late 50s! I guess that's how he had sex with over 2,000 women...he tried to pick up every woman he saw at a basketball game!
Johnny Depp was once asked if, in his early days, he really wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter.
“It’s absolutely true,” he mused “I went through various stages in my childhood as we all do. I would spin the ball on my finger and I would make it go through my arms and I would dribble with it close to the ground like Curly Neal used to do. I went through that stage. I wanted to be the first white Globetrotter.(http://www.rocksbackpagesblogs.com/2009/03/sounds-of-the-harlem-globetrotters/)
"They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they'd make up their minds." Wilt Chamberlain
When WWII began many of the Globetrotters enlisted. The remaining Globetrotters set about raising funds for the war effort.
The Globetrotters 'unofficially' did a lot of good. They were US Ambassadors to foreign countries even going to Moscow and behind the Iron Curtain. They played to a sold out audience in Moscow and they played in front of 75,000 in Berlin in 1951. They also played in Africa on Nelson Mandela's 74th birthday. Another trivia fact, they were the first basketball team to play in Europe.
They helped educate children in those countries as to what was really going on in the United States and they showed that not all blacks in the 50s were "picking cotton". They have always showed a great interest in raising money for children and other charities such as Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, victims of Hurricane Katrina, and Red Cross Disaster Relief.
They helped the Civil Rights movement by their demeanor and by demanding to stay in the best hotels and not going in through back doors. (FYI -The first black player in the NBA was signed in 1950.)
Due to their talent, popularity and charity work, everyone wanted to be a Globetrotter! Over the years the Globetrotters have inducted honorary members including; Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II.
The Globetrotters appeared in TV and movies. They had their own film, "The Harlem Globetrotters" in 1951 and a sequel called "Go Man Go" in 1954. They've appeared on "Love Boat", "The White Shadow", and in 2010 they were on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader". They've had cartoon shows like "Harlem Globetrotters" a Hanna Barbera cartoon and they've appeared on cartoon shows like "The Simpsons". Sometime during the 1980s it was said their TV viewing audience had passed the billion mark.
They've also been on talk shows all over the world, and appeared on game shows to raise money for charity. Because of their entertainment value they were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2002 they were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
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The Globetrotters recently appeared on Good Morning America with their newest star, Tiny Sturgess who happens to be the world's tallest professional basketball player at 7foot 8inches. Sturgess was born in 1987 and grew up in Loughborough, England.
The Globetrotters continue their charitable work by making appearances at schools, hospitals and community centers. According to harlemglobetrotters.com/news the players love getting out in the community.
The Harlem Globetrotters continue to play and tour. Here is an example of their upcoming schedule:
Feb. 10 FriCarrier DomeSyracuse, NY7:00 PM
Feb. 11 SatNMSU Pan American Center Las Cruces, NM7:00 PM
Feb. 14 TueWestchester County CenterWhite Plains, NY7:00 PM
Feb. 15 WedOrleans ArenaLas Vegas, NV7:00 PM
That's just a small sampling. In March they are scheduled in the UK, Germany, and France . This year's tour includes 270 games! Harlem Globetrotter tickets can be purchased online at harlemglobetrotters.com, and ticketmaster.com If you've never seen them you really should give yourself a treat.