Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 27, 2010

Harlem Globetrotters

January 27, 1927: The Harlem Globetrotters play their first game. In the beginning, the Globetrotters were a serious team of African-American basketball players who played competitively, beating professional teams. The team was created by Abe Saperstein in 1926. Although formed in Chicago, it was named after the African-American community in New York City Saperstein was born in London in 1902. He not only began the team, first called the Savoy Big Five, but coached as well. The name later changed to Harlem Globetrotters, with the second word giving a sense of world travel to the small team. Saperstein was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971 and at 5′ 5″ may be the shortest man so honored.

In 1950, the first African-American male was drafted into the NBA. As the NBA began allowing a market for African-American talent, the Globetrotters had a harder time getting top-notch players. Creating a niche was one way to gain a following. The Globetrotters gradually added comedy to their sport and added to their waning success.

On January 12, 1998, the Globetrotters played their 20,000th career game. This is an unprecedented achievement. No other professional sports team has ever reached this number of  games. The Chicago Cubs are the closest with just under 18,000 [as of the 1-12-98 date]. To date, they have played over 25,000 games. They lost only two games over a 38 year period and had a 2,495 game winning streak end in Martin, Tennessee on January 5, 1971 playing against the New Jersey Reds [score was 100-99].

Over the years many men have played for the Globetrotters. They have ranged in height from 5 foot 3 inches to 7 foot  3 inches. The most famous name on the roster outside of basketball would probably be Bill Cosby. They have retired five numbers over the years: 13 was Wilt Chamberlain, 20 was Marques Haynes, 22 was Curly Neal, 36 was Meadowlark Lemon, and 50 was Reece Tatum. There have been eight honorary Harlem Globetrotters: Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Mandela, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Pope John Paul II, Jesse Jackson, and Matt Tubb.

“Any American boy can be a basketball star if he grows up, up, up.” – Bill Vaughn

“This is the second most exciting indoor sport, and the other one shouldn’t have spectators.” – Dick Vertleib

“These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.” – From a Charles Barkley commercial for basketball shoes, 1993

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.” – Wilt Chamberlain

Also on this day, in1606 the Gunpowder Plot conspirators were brought to trial.