History of the Harlem Globetrotters Part 2

About the history of the famous basketball team the Harlem Globetrotters.


The Trotters' first great showman and star attraction was Reece "Goose" Tatum, who was 6 ft. 3 in. tall and double-jointed, with an incredible 84-in. reach. Meadowlark Lemon inherited the funnyman role in 1958 and is still the centerpiece for most Trotter routines today. The Trotters traditionally feature an exceptional dribbler, the most famous of whom was Marques Haynes. A magician with a basketball, Haynes once dribbled for an entire quarter of a game while eluding defenders.

Other well-known players who once wore the Globetrotter uniform include Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain, Connie "the Hawk" Hawkins, and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, all of whom became professional stars. The Trotters, while amusing the fans, didn't gain respectability from the basketball establishment until they proved they could beat the (white) professionals at their own game. In 1948 they defeated the Minneapolis Lakers, who featured Hall of Famer George Mikan. Challenged to a rematch the next year, the Trotters beat the pros again. After an 11-year series begun in 1950, the Trotters prevailed over the College All-Star teams they faced by a 144-66 margin.

The struggles of their early years were immortalized in two motion pictures, Columbia's The Harlem Globetrotters' Story, with Thomas Gomez in the role of Saperstein, and United Artists' Go, Man, Go! starring Dane Clark.

In 1950 the National Basketball Association broke the color barrier and drafted its first black player, depriving Saperstein of his recruiting exclusivity if not his supremacy. The same year saw the Trotters' first overseas trip to Europe and North Africa; it was so successful that they've gone around the world every year since, drawing an average of 2 million people annually.

The Globetrotters have performed before kings, queens, princes, sultans, and popes. In Rome, they once performed their circle drill for 45 minutes with Pope Pius XII in the center of the circle. This was accompanied, of course, by the Brother Bones version of "Sweet Georgia Brown." His Holiness was heard to remark, "My, but they are a clever group of boys!"

In 1966 Saperstein died, and in 1967 the Trotters were sold to three Chicago businessmen. Eventually, the team was acquired by an Arizona-based communications corporation.

In 1969, after some 9,500 games in 42 years, the Harlem Globetrotters made their first appearance in Harlem, New York, at Intermediate School 201. The final score of that game was never made public.

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