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The Harlem Globetrotters
The Harlem Globetrotters are a basketball team that fuses athleticism, theater, and comedy in exhibition games. Traveling to 123 countries and playing tens of thousands of games, they share basketball and entertainment with the world. Although some people think the Harlem Globetrotters are all show, this team plays real basketball games—just with a different style, flare, and finesse on the court.
In 1926, Abe Saperstein—a white Jewish immigrant—became coach of the Savoy Big Five, a Chicago-based African-American touring team. He renamed them the Harlem Globetrotters, because most of the players were black, and the New York City neighborhood of Harlem was—and still is—predominately black. Saperstein believed affiliating the Chicago team with New York would give them an international appeal, elevating them to opportunities on a world-class level. He was right.
Since their inception, the Harlem Globetrotters have generated breakthroughs in the game of basketball. Inventive, pioneering, experimental, team members have popularized—and in some cases created—the fast break, the slam dunk, the figure-eight weave, and the forward and point guard positions. They approach basketball in a new way, leaving opponents and fans on their toes. These twists have spread to other basketball teams and informed the styles of some of basketball’s best players. The Harlem Globetrotters have critical acclaim and technical excellence to their credit, too. They have won World Basketball Championships. They have made near-impossible moves on the court, such as the fist 4-point shot, located 30 feet away from the basket. However, in recent years, they have honed in on entertainment, theatrics, and comedy, more than bottom-line scores.
The Harlem Globetrotters are also well-known for their historic and social statements. In days of blatant discrimination and racism, they showed that black people can succeed professionally. Then, in the 1950s when they began their international tours, they spread this message to Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and the Soviet Union, making a statement to all people about the quality of human spirit and the unifying force of sports. As a result of these tours, spreading diverse American culture through sports, the Harlem Globetrotters became known as “Ambassadors of Goodwill,” a term used by the U.S. State Department to describe the team’s contributions. In the '80s, the team opened up to female players for the first time in men’s pro basketball history, a move that paved a way for the WNBA. These are the types of choices that have built an incredible legacy for the Harlem Globetrotters.
From sports fans to show fans, the Harlem Globetrotters are a sight to see. Their moves as a team have made profound statements historically, a sign of their contributions to culture around the world. And their unique style of playing injects life and good-natured humor into what can sometimes be an overly competitive court. If you would like to see fun-filled, drama-infused basketball games in person and support a great cause, purchase tickets today. They may be playing near you!