Thursday, January 07, 2021
Long fight against racism
The spectacular power of the globetrotters
Crashing dunkings, crazy ball tricks, funny sayings: The Harlem Globetrotters are known worldwide. The show basketball team performed for the first time 94 years ago, and later even in front of 75,000 Berliners. But the beginnings of the African-American team are also shaped by racism in the USA.
Harlem Globetrotters. Ever heard Certainly. This is this basketball team in the blue jerseys and the red and white striped pants that do crazy things on the field, that, if not Corona, travel the world, that amaze and laugh at the audience and always wins. Whereby: It’s no longer about sport. It’s about entertainment.
In fact, the Harlem Globetrotters have always put on a good show. In their beginnings, which were in Chicago and by no means in the New York borough of Harlem, they were first and foremost a good athletic team. Numerous legends surround their origins and their first years. According to his own statements, they were founded in 1926 by Abe Saperstein. The name “Harlem Globetrotters” has only existed since 1929, however.
‘Colored people eat in the back room!’
What is certain is that the team, which was later called the Harlem Globetrotters, played their first game on January 7, 1927 in the Hinckley spot in the US state of Illinois. It consisted exclusively of black players, most of whom came directly from the university and were given the opportunity to earn money with their sport at Saperstein. US professional leagues were taboo for blacks at the time.
Jim Horne, who played for Globetrotters for five years in the 1950s, once said of the racial oppression the team had endured: “I was segregated in the army. When we traveled, signs said: ‘Colored eat in the back room! ‘”says Horne. Then he started performing with the African American team in front of whites. “But when I played with the globetrotters it was very different because we entertained people but were still treated as if we were worth less. In the southern states we couldn’t eat in most places and had to stay in the worst hotels . It was tough those days. “
The Globetrotters toured the United States and Canada, but also took part in the World Basketball Championship, which they won against the Chicago Bruins in 1940. In 1948 and 1949, the Globetrotters won against the Minneapolis Lakers (now Los Angeles Lakers), then champions of the NBA founded in 1946. They were much more popular than the teams in the professional league, whose development they certainly promoted.
Recognition in Hollywood
The spectacular playing style of the Globetrotters gradually found its way into the NBA, which in turn secured the best black players as its popularity increased. The importance of the globetrotters decreased over the years, they developed into an entertainment troupe. On August 22, 1951, they played in front of an estimated 75,000 spectators in the Berlin Olympic Stadium.
The Globetrotters played more than 26,000 games in 124 countries in front of an estimated 148 million people. From 1951 they competed at least 16,000 times against their fellow opponents, who usually appeared as Washington Generals and only had one task: to make the Globetrotters look good. It just didn’t work once. On January 5, 1971, the generals in Martin, Tennessee, actually won a game with a basket in the last second.
At that moment, remembered Red Klotz, key shooter (and general manager), the audience looked “as if we had killed Santa Claus”. In 1982 the team finally received ultimate recognition for the role of mega-entertainer: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.