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How the Harlem Globetrotters Rose From Midwest Obscurity to Become Global Stars: Photos

February 25, 2020 in History

By Rashad Grove

The team got their start in Chicago during a time when segregation was pervasive and basketball was not even a well-known game.

For nearly a century, the Harlem Globetrotters have brought flair and antics to the game of basketball. The team has played to more than 148 million people, in over 26,000 exhibition games in 124 countries and territories.

The Harlem Globetrotters began in 1926 as the Savoy Big Five, an African American basketball team who mostly hailed from Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago’s South Side. They first played under the banner of the South Side’s Giles Post of the American Legion and then became known as the Savoy Big Five after Chicago’s Bronzeville’s Savoy Ballroom hired the team to play as pre-dance entertainment. For Midwest audiences, the game of basketball was still novel and, from early on, this team brought an entertaining style of play to the sport.

The Harlem Globetrotters began in 1926 as the Savoy Big Five, an African American basketball team who mostly hailed from Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago’s South Side. The team was renamed the Harlem Globetrotters in 1930 to link the squad with the neighborhood known as the mecca of black culture.These portraits show team members in 1931.

View the 14 images of this gallery on the original article

Seizing on a golden opportunity, sports promoter Abe Saperstein purchased the team and became the manager and coach. Saperstein, a short-statured Jewish man from Chicago’s North Side, even pitched in as a player from time to time when a team member was ill or injured.

They played their first road game in Hinckley, Illinois on January 7, 1927. Eager to advertise the team’s unique all-black roster, Saperstein changed their name in 1930 to the Harlem Globetrotters to link the squad with the neighborhood known as the mecca of black culture. Despite the name, the Harlem Globetrotters didn’t actually play a game in Harlem until 1968.

READ MORE: The Harlem Renaissance: Photos

Before they became known for their on-court antics, the Globetrotters were highly competitive in professional basketball and introduced a flashy, schoolyard style of play. They popularized the slam dunk, the fast break, emphasized the forward and point guard positions, and the figure-eight weave.

In 1940, the team captured the World Professional Basketball Tournament title. Even as they introduced tricks and comedy into their play, the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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