Harlem Globetrotters

"Globetrotters" redirects here. For the animated television series, see Harlem Globetrotters (TV series). For the video game, see Harlem Globetrotters (video game). For the travelers association, see German Globetrotter Club.
Harlem Globetrotters
Leagues Independent
Founded 1926
History 1926–27: Chicago GlobeTrotters
1928–29: New York Harlem Globetrotters
1929–present: Harlem Globetrotters
Arena Family entertainment
Location Corporate office in Atlanta; international satellite office in Beijing
Team colors Blue, Red, White
President Howard Smith[1]
Head coach Jimmy Blacklock (coach)
Lou Dunbar (coach)
Barry Hardy (coach)
Ownership Herschend Family Entertainment
Website www.harlemglobetrotters.com

The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater, and comedy. Over the years they have played more than 26,000 exhibition games in 122 countries and territories. The team's signature song is Brother Bones's whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown". Their mascot is an anthropomorphized globe named Globie. The team plays over 450 live events worldwide each year. The team is currently owned by Herschend Family Entertainment. The executive offices for the team are located in suburban Atlanta.


The Globetrotters originated in the south side of Chicago, Illinois, in the 1920s, where all the original players were raised. The Globetrotters began as the Savoy Big Five, one of the premier attractions of the Savoy Ballroom opened in November 1927, a basketball team of African-American players that played exhibitions before dances. In 1928, several players left the team in a dispute. That fall, several of the players, led by Tommy Brookins, formed a team called the "Globe Trotters" and toured Southern Illinois that spring. Abe Saperstein became involved with the team as its manager and promoter. By 1929 Saperstein was touring Illinois and Iowa with his basketball team called the "New York Harlem Globe Trotters". Saperstein selected Harlem, New York City, New York as their home city, since Harlem was considered the center of African-American culture at the time, and an out-of-town team name would give the team more of a mystique.[2] In fact, the Globetrotters did not play in Harlem until 1968, four decades after the teams formation.

The Globetrotters were perennial participants in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, winning it in 1940. The Globetrotters gradually worked comic routines into their act—a direction the team has credited to Reece "Goose" Tatum,[3] who joined in 1941—and eventually became known more for entertainment than sports.[4] Once one of the most famous teams in the country, the Globetrotters were eventually eclipsed by the rise of the National Basketball Association, particularly when NBA teams began fielding African-American players in the 1950s..[5] In 1950, Harlem Globetrotter Chuck Cooper became the first black player to be drafted in the NBA by Boston and teammate Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton became the first African-American player to sign an NBA contract when the New York Knicks purchased his contract from the Globetrotters. The Globetrotters' acts often feature incredible coordination and skillful handling of one or more basketballs, such as passing or juggling balls between players, balancing or spinning balls on their fingertips, and making unusual, difficult shots.[6]

The Harlem Globetrotters in the Netherlands (1958)

In 1959, the Globetrotters played nine games in Moscow after Saperstein received an invitation from Vasily Gricorevich, the director of Lenin Central Stadium.[7] The team, which included Wilt Chamberlain, was welcomed enthusiastically by spectators and authorities; they met Premier Nikita Khrushchev[8] and collectively received the Athletic Order of Lenin medal.[9]

However, according to one report, spectators were initially confused: "A Soviet audience of 14,000 sat almost silently, as if in awe, through the first half of the game. It warmed up slightly in the second half when it realized the Trotters are more show than competition."[10] The Globetrotters brought their own opponent—not the Washington Generals, but the San Francisco Chinese Basketeers.[7] A review in Pravda stated, "This is not basketball; it is too full of tricks" but praised the Globetrotters' skills and suggested that "they have some techniques to show us."[11] The American press—particularly Drew Pearson—made note of the fact that the Globetrotters were paid (per game) the equivalent of $4000, which could be spent only in Moscow. The games were used as evidence that U.S.–Soviet relations were improving, that Moscow was backing off its criticism of race relations inside America, and that the USSR was becoming more capitalist (Pearson suggested that the games were held because Lenin Stadium needed money).[12][13]

Globetrotters player Meadowlark Lemon presenting a ball signed by the team to First Lady Betty Ford in 1974

Many famous basketball players have played for the Globetrotters. Greats such as "Wee" Willie Gardner, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins, Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton later went on to join the NBA. The Globetrotters signed their first female player, Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard, in 1985.[14] The Globetrotters have featured 13 female players in their illustrious history. Baseball Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Bob Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins also played for the team at one time or another. Because almost all of its players have been African American, and because of the buffoonery involved in many of the Globetrotters' skits, they drew some criticism in the Civil Rights era. The players were derisively accused by some civil-rights advocates of "Tomming for Abe", a reference to Uncle Tom and Jewish owner Abe Saperstein. However, prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (who would later be named an Honorary Globetrotter) came to their defense by stating, “I think they've been a positive influence... They did not show blacks as stupid. On the contrary, they were shown as superior.”[5] In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic and the first nonblack on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942–43.[15]

While parts of a modern exhibition game are pre-planned, the games themselves are not fixed. While their opponents do not interfere with the Globetrotters’ hijinks while on defense they play a serious game when in possession of the ball. About 20 to 30 percent of a game is “real”. This once lead to a defeat at the hands of the infamous Washington Generals to the distress of a watching crowd.[16]


The Globetrotters won the World Professional Basketball Tournament once beating Chicago Bruins by 31-29.

World Professional Basketball Tournament: 1 (1940)

Current roster

Harlem Globetrotters roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY–MM–DD) From
12 Atkinson, Anthony "Ant" 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) Barton College
G 15 Blakes, Anthony "Buckets" 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Wyoming
26 Bruton, Kris "Hi-Lite" 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) Benedict
G 33 Bullard, William "Bull" 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
G 11 Chisholm, Brawley "Cheese" 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Ball State
G 16 Christensen, Shane "Scooter" 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Montana
G 2 English, Carlos "Dizzy" 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) Cleveland State
G 3 Fisher, Tay "Firefly" 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) Siena
14 Franklin, Chris "Handles" 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Lock Haven University
G 7 Hall, Jonte "Too Tall" 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) CCBC-Catonsville
F 31 Harrison, Donte "Hammer" 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) Hampton
G 1 Jackson, Crissa "Ace" 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m) Point Loma Nazarene
G 4 Lang, Herbert "Flight Time" 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) Centenary College
F 34 Law, Corey "Thunder" 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) High Point University
52 Lofton, Nathaniel "Big Easy" 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) Southeastern Louisiana
G 18 Maddox, Fatima "TNT" 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) Temple
F 30 McClurkin, Julius "Zeus" 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) North Carolina A&T
F 39 Meléndez, Orlando "El Gato" 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) North Carolina
G 8 Pennington, Carde "Rocket" 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) Dakota Wesleyan University
F 40 Shaw, "Slick" Willie 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) St. John's
F 24 Taylor, DeAndre "Dragon" 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Northern Michigan
F 41 Thomas, Jonathan "Hawk" 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Marshall
F 44 Versher, Wun "The Shot" 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Arizona State
F 45 Weekes, Alex "Moose" 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) Middle Tennessee
Head coach
  • Vacant

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured

Last transaction: 2015-11-25


Starting in 2007, the Globetrotters have conducted an annual "draft" a few days before the NBA draft, in which they select players they feel fit the mold of a Globetrotter. Being drafted by the Globetrotters does not guarantee a spot on the team, although several drafted players have gone on to become Globetrotters: Anthony "Ant" Atkinson (2007), Brent Petway (2007), William "Bull" Bullard (2008), Tay "Firefly" Fisher (2008), Charlie Coley III (2009), Paul "Tiny" Sturgess (2011), Jacob "Hops" Tucker (2011), Darnell "Spider" Wilks (2011), Bryan "B-Nice" Narcisse (2012), Tyrone Davis (2013), and Corey "Thunder" Law (2013).

Other notable draft picks by the Globetrotters include: Sun Mingming (2007), Patrick Ewing, Jr. (2008), Sonny Weems (2008), Taylor Griffin (2009), Tim Howard (2009), Mark Titus (2010), Lionel Messi (2011), Andrew Goudelock (2011), Usain Bolt (2012), Mariano Rivera (2013), Brittney Griner (2013), Landon Donovan (2014), Mo'ne Davis (2015), Dude Perfect (2015), Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (2016), Missy Franklin (2016), Jordan Spieth (2016) and Craig Sager (2016) .[17][18][19]

Retired numbers

A basketball player, wearing a blue jersey with the word "ORIGINAL HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS" on the front, is posing while holding a basketball.
Wilt Chamberlain, the first Globetrotter to have his jersey number retired

The Globetrotters have honored six players by retiring their numbers:

Globetrotters' retired numbers
No. Player Tenure Date retired
13 Wilt Chamberlain 1958–59 March 9, 2000
20 Marques Haynes 1947–53, 1972–79 January 5, 2001
36 Meadowlark Lemon 1954–79, 1993[20] January 5, 2001
50 Goose Tatum 1941–43, 1945–55[21] February 8, 2002
22 Fred "Curly" Neal 1963–85 February 15, 2008
3 Red Klotz None a March 13, 2011

a. The first non-Globetrotter to have a number retired by the team was Red Klotz, the founder, owner and two-handed-set-shot artist for the Washington Generals, the long time Harlem Globetrotters' foils. He wore #3 as a player with the Generals, as well as during his standout collegiate and high school career in Philadelphia.[22][23]

In mass media/popular culture

Soupy Sales and the Harlem Globetrotters; from a 1969 television special

The Harlem Globetrotters have been featured in several of their own films and television series:

Honorary members

Nine people have been officially named as honorary members of the team:[32]

In addition, Magic Johnson (in 2003) was signed to $1 a year lifetime contract with the Globetrotters.[36][37]



  1. "Team CEO Kurt Schneider to step down following 2016 North American tour in May". HarlemGlobetrotters.com. Atlanta. January 12, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  2. Smith, Jay. "Harlem Globetrotters". WTTW. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
  3. "Our Story". HarlemGlobetrotters.com. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  4. Dupont, Kevin Paul (March 21, 2015). "Harlem Globetrotters keeping the fun in sports". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  5. 1 2 Berkow, Ira (July 24, 2005). "'Spinning the Globe': Ball Hog Heaven". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  6. Flomberg, Deb (December 6, 2014). "The Harlem Globetrotters spin their way to Denver". AXS. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  7. 1 2 "Abe's 'Trotters Off to Moscow". Vancouver Sun. AP. 16 June 1959. p. 16. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  8. "Khruschchev Surprises U.S. Cagers By Street". Victoria Advocate. AP. 9 July 1959. p. 15. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  9. Cummings, Richard H. (30 January 2011). "Harlem Globetrotters and Nikita Khrushchev". Cold War Radios. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  10. "Russians Baffled by Harlem Fun". Reading Eagle. UPI. 7 July 1959. p. 3. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  11. "Globetrotters impress Soviets". Leader-Post. AP. 8 July 1959. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  12. Pearson, Drew (30 July 1959). "US–USSR Relations Much Improved". Deseret News. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  13. Pearson, Drew (11 September 1959). "Ike Should Go to Russia". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. p. 13. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  14. Lubinger, Bill (December 22, 2008). "It's a new spin: Harlem Globetrotters trying to put a high-tech gleam on a vintage product". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  15. "A Non-Black Player Joins Globetrotters". The New York Times. Associated Press. December 28, 1995.
  16. O'Donnel, Jake (August 14, 2015). "As The Harlem Globetrotters Ditch Their Archrivals, We Remember the One Time The Washington Generals Won". Sportsgrid. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  17. Dorsey, Patrick (2011-07-23). "A brief history of the Harlem Globetrotters' draft picks, including Lionel Messi". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  18. McManamon, Pat (June 24, 2014). "Three sports: Globetrotters draft Manziel". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  19. Fagan, Kate (2013-06-25). "Griner turns down Globetrotters". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
  20. Biography of Meadowlark Lemon, MeadowlarkLemon.org
  21. "Harlem Globetrotter Reece 'Goose' Tatum To Be Enshrined In Basketball Hall of Fame". BlackFives.org. April 4, 2011.
  22. "Red Klotz, Beloved Foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, Dies at 93". The New York Times. May 14, 2014.
  23. "Globetrotters mourn the passing of Red Klotz". HarlemGlobetrotters.com. Phoenix. July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  24. Crowther, Bosley (March 10, 1954). "The Screen in Review; Harlem Globetrotters Perform in a Sports Romance, 'Go, Man, Go!' at the Globe". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  25. Sorrell, Maurice (January 1977). "The Week's Best Photos". JET. 51 (17): 41–41.
  26. 77th McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade (2010) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  27. "2010 2N Globetrotters". YouTube. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  28. "Game Ball From Historic 4-Point Shot Headed to the Hall". HarlemGlobetrotters.com. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  29. "Trotters Appear on ''Sesame Street''". HarlemGlobetrotters.com. 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  30. Dickson, Tom (host) (28 February 2012). The Harlem Globetrotters (Television production). Blendtec. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  31. "Dog With a Blog episode 322; Air Date 08/21/15 'Cat with a Blog'". DisneyABCPress.com.
  32. Blevins, David (2012). "Harlem Globetrotters (Team)". The Sports Hall of Fame Encyclopedia: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Soccer. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press. pp. 415–417. ISBN 978-0-8108-6130-5.
  33. Martin, Douglas. "Lee Solters, Razzle-Dazzle Press Agent, Dies at 89". The New York Times. May 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  34. "Harlem Globetrotters Have an Audience with Pope Francis, Name Him Ninth Honorary Harlem Globetrotter in Team History". May 6, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  35. "Robin Roberts Named Honorary Harlem Globetrotter; Team Announces The Great Assist Initiative And 90-Year Celebration". October 6, 2015. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  36. "Johnson joins Globetrotters to defeat former team". ESPN.com. Associated Press. November 2, 2003. Retrieved January 28, 2008.
  37. Wolfe, Rich (2006). For Mets Fans Only. Indy Tech Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 0-7906-1334-4.
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