Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



The Harlem Globetrotters: Basketball’s Ambassadors of Fun 9

Posted on December 10, 2009 by Rojo Grande
The Harlem Globetrotters began in Chicago as the "Savoy Big Five."

The Harlem Globetrotters began in Chicago as the "Savoy Big Five."

When Professor James Naismith nailed that peach basket to the wall in 1891, he couldn’t have imagined the popularity his invention would someday enjoy around the world.

When promoter Abe Saperstein gathered five poor inner-city kids from Chicago’s South Side to play some serious basketball in 1926, how could he have known the destiny of fame and goodwill that would one day materialize?

The six-foot Naismith and the five-foot Saperstein; astute academian and absolute comedian; oil and water, fire and ice. As individuals, they were almost polar opposites.

But when the brainchild of the professor and the vision of the promoter happened to cross paths, something magical and enduring and beyond anyone’s wildest dreams was set in motion.

When evaluating success, it is often useful to look to the past. Hindsight offers a great perspective on the turning points, opportunities, happenstance and even the mistakes which all contributed to the positive outcome.

With that in mind, let us trace the course of basketball in general and its intersection with the path of its greatest proponent, the Harlem Globetrotters.

Basketball was an almost instant success after its inception. Within five years, intercollegiate competition was organized. Semi-pro tournament teams began to appear as the demand for the fast-paced, fan-friendly game increased. These early teams would tour the eastern United States, barely surviving on their meager cut of the gate receipts.

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