There is no better way to spend today’s Green Tea Break than with the Harlem Globetrotters. Its not always easy to find pure wholesome fun and entertainment. This legendary basketball team has been providing just that for almost 100 years. The Globetrotters travel the world and along the way leave kids laughing hysterically and adults mind boggled via Oscar worthy entertainment, no-look passes, dizzying dribbling and trick shots beyond belief.
In the early days the Globetrotters consisted of only five players and those players played basketball games seven days a week. The Globetrotters were formed on the south side of Chicago in the mid 1920’s. The original five teammates all went to the same school and started their impressive run by playing basketball games before school dances. As the Globetrotters established themselves they started touring the country by traveling from town to town. The five players would pile into a single car to travel around the United States showing off their basketball skills. This was years before segregation was outlawed. It was also quite a few years before the NBA was established. In those days winning was the Globetrotters top priority. The team still entertained with some showboating, but usually not until a decent lead was established.
The Globetrotters dedication to winning was never more evident than in 1947 and 1948. Those were the first two years of organized professional basketball otherwise known today as the NBA. The Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers) won the league championship in 47′ and 48′. Then they faced off against the Harlem Globetrotters for a winner-take-all single championship game. The Globetrotters beat the Lakers both years. Looking back, the Globetrotter, Laker basketball games are two of the most meaningful games ever played in the history of sports.
The Globetrotter, Laker games helped pave the way for racial integration within the National Basketball Association. Once racial segregation was outlawed in the NBA the league started offering larger contracts to many of the Harlem Globetrotter players. Financially, the team couldn’t compete with the NBA and ended up loosing many talented players. Some of the players lost to the NBA included such names as Wilt Chamberlain, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Jerome James. In fact, Sweetwater Clifton became the first player to break the color barrier in the NBA when he signed a contract with the New York Knickerbockers in 1950. In order for the Globetrotters to move forward and continue their legacy they had to start focusing more on entertainment.
In 1953 the Globetrotters started playing the Washington Generals as their standard opponent until 1995. In 1995 they started playing the New York Nationals, which is their current opponent. The Globetrotters turned out to be master entertainers as the teams fame only grew. They perfected the art of jaw-dropping alley oop dunks, fancy dribbling, behind-the-back no look passes and the ability to spin the ball on one finger for extended periods of time. They also started involving the audience. Players went into the stands and interacted with the fans often singling out a lucky kid to play a trick on or take out onto the basketball court. Picture a seven or eight year old having one of their larger-than-life idols bring them out onto the court in front of tens of thousands of people. It’s likely that joyful memory will be remembered for the rest of their life.
The team became so popular that it was featured on television shows like Giligans Island, Scooby-Doo and Fat Albert. They even had their own cartoon and a Harlem Globetrotter movie. Rebok came out with a Globetrotter sneaker called Talkin’ Krazy II – Harlem Globetrotters. Gold-Key comics produced a comic books series based on the team and there was a Harlem Globetrotters video game for the Nintendo gaming system.
Perhaps the most famous player to ever grace a Globetrotter red, white and blue uniform was Reece “Golden Goose” Tatum. Reece Tatum was not only incredibility talented, but fun-loving, entertaining and is single handily responsible for changing the game of basketball. That is because he is credited with inventing the slam dunk and was the first player to showcase no-look passes in games. The slam dunk and no-look pass are two of the most exciting plays in the game of basketball today. The Golden Goose played before segregation was outlawed, between 1941 to 1955. However, segregation nor anything else would hold this player back from stardom. During his time he was the highest paid and most popular sports figure in the world.
The legendary Globetrotters had many famous players throughout their storied history. One particular player who stands out in the minds of many was Meadowlark “Clown Prince of Basketball” Lemon. Meadowlark played for the Globetrotters for 26 years. He was a brilliant performer who was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 due to his accomplishments with the team. Another renowned player was Michael “Wild Thing” Wilson. Wild Thing Wilson had more “ups” than a Kangaroo. This Globetrotter legend could slam a basketball through a hoop 12 feet off the ground. That accomplishment landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records for highest dunk. A few more well known players include Paul “Showtime” Gaffney, Curly “Boo” Johnson, and Lynette Woodard (the first female Globetrotter).
The Globetrotters started out as a group of five inner-city kids trying to make it in a sport they loved playing. Those kids did make it and along the way established a team that has positively touched the lives of millions. To this very day the Globetrotters travel the world, packing arenas and bringing joy to their many fans.
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