The Harlem Globetrotters Changed the World

March 10, 2017

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Human history is full of occurrences that have gone on to transform the world for the better. The formation of the Harlem Globetrotters in the late 1920s was one such moment. The Globetrotters broke racial barriers and took the sport of basketball to new heights. They had to overcome quite a few obstacles in order to do that but overcome they did and now the Harlem Globetrotters and all that they do is revered all around the globe.

The Harlem Globetrotters changed the world, of that there is no doubt but how they did that is a story worth revisiting.

The man behind the Globetrotters

Abe Saperstein is the man responsible for the formation of the Harlem Globetrotters. Saperstein was only 5 ft 3in height but that did not stop him from becoming a very good basketball player. That was not his only talent. He had a very good business mind as well.

Abe had always wanted to have his own NBA team but for one reason or another that dream did not become a reality. So in turn he decided to form the American Basketball League in 1961. The ABL lasted for two years only and ceased to exist in 1963 but not before Abe had come up with the 3 point shot.

An idea

Abe Saperstein was always aware of the talent that the African-Americans youngsters had when it came to basketball as he used to see quite a few of them showcasing their skills on the streets of Chicago. Due to the prevalent racial divide in the US back then, those players were not allowed to play professionally.

The time had come for someone to do something about that grave injustice and Abe Saperstein picked up the mantle. He formed a basketball team and named it the Savoy Big Five. The team consisted of only black players. The Savoy Big Five went on its first tour.

To show the world that the team consisted of African-American players and that it had travelled quite a lot, the name of the side was changed to the Harlem Globetrotters. The idea was about to change the world.

The Globetrotters make an impact

The Harlem Globetrotters trotted out on the court to make their debut on January 7, 1927. The first season turned out to be a bigger success than anyone had ever imagined. The Globetrotters racked up 101 wins in 117 games. Most importantly, it showed the world what African-Americans players were capable of.

The Harlem Globetrotters became a huge hit with the fans. Their games however had started to become a bit too one-sided for the fans to enjoy. That is when Imman Jackson, one of the Globetrotters started pulling some tricks out of the bag. The showboating was an instant hit with the fans and they made it a regular feature of their play from that point onwards. That has remained the case ever since.

Arguably the most historical game in basketball history

As 1940 came around, the Harlem Globetrotters had already taken part in an astonishing two thousand encounters. They had won most of those games by dominating their opponents.

The time had come for the Harlem Globetrotters to really challenge themselves and in 1948, they did just that. The Globetrotters took on the Minneapolis Lakers that year. The Lakers were the reigning NBA champions and by virtue of that, the best side in the business. The Globetrotters however beat them.

That game and the Harlem Globetrotters win was a watershed moment. The world began to take notice of the immense talent that the African-American players had. That opened the doors for them to become professional players. In the year 1950, the Nathaniel Clifton joined the NBA. He was not only the first Globetrotter to do that, but also the first African-American basketball player in history to become an NBA player.

The Globetrotters go abroad

The Harlem Globetrotters had become the talk of the town in the US and their stature kept on increasing. The rise in profile brought them to the attention of people from across the globe. Then in the year 1959, the received an invitation from Vasily Gricorevich. He was the director of the Lenin Central Stadium and he extended an invitation to the Globetrotters to play 9 games there.

The invitation was accepted and the Globetrotters made their way to Moscow. They also had in their ranks, the great Wilt Chamberlain. The Harlem Globetrotters wowed the fans with their incredible display of skill and tricks. Basketball fans in the USSR could not take their eyes off all the action happening on the court.

The Harlem Globetrotters reach for the stars

The Harlem Globetrotters kept going even when quite a few of their players began to sign professional NBA contracts. Their unusual tricks came to be considered as an integral part of their repertoire. As a result of that, they began to be seen as an entertaining side rather than a professional basketball team.

The Harlem Globetrotters then had to contend with the passing away of their founder, Abe Saperstein in 1966. It was a big blow to the team but Abe had laid very strong foundations.  The Harlem Globetrotters have kept on going and are still going as strong as ever.

The Harlem Globetrotters changed the world, of there is no doubt. They used their basketball do the talking. Every African-American player that has ever played in basketball after 1950, owes his success to the Harlem Globetrotters. Be it Michael Jordan, Steph Curry and LeBron James, they all owe a huge amount of gratitude to the Harlem Globetrotters.

It is 90 years and counting for the Globetrotters and they are still showing no signs of taking their foot off the pedal. They have showcased their incredible skills in well over one hundred countries. Not only that, but they have also performed in front of very famous people. From head of states to other famous personalities, the Globetrotters have entertained them all.

They have a legacy that they can be proud of. They have set records and played basketball like only they can. Their brand of basketball is not easy to play. The fact no body before or after them has been able to do that is a testament that what they do is absolutely unique.

Regardless of all that, their biggest achievement till date is them giving African-American players a platform to show the world they can play basketball. Abe Saperstein had a dream and the Harlem Globetrotters is the glorious manifestation of that dream.

This was one dream that broke barriers and ushered in a new era of basketball. The sport is a much better spectacle because of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Thank you Abe Saperstein for the Harlem Globetrotters.

 

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