(News4usonline) – The game-changing impact of the Harlem Globetrotters has led to them being one of the longest-lasting basketball teams in existence. Put together in 1926, the only team that has been around longer than the Globetrotters is the Sacramento Kings franchise.
Originally consisting of five Black players, who interestingly enough originated from Chicago, the Globetrotters broke barriers and introduced a style of play that changed basketball forever.
The Globetrotters were essentially athletes, actors, and comedians all at once. What made them so special is that above all, they were very entertaining and very good at playing basketball. Before any Black players had debuted in the NBA, the Globetrotters were the destination for Black athletes.
Extreme talent and charisma were the calling cards needed to be part of the squad. From Fred “Curly” Neal to Reece “Goose” Tatum to Meadowlark Lemon, the Globetrotters lit up the global scene with their combined brand of basketball and entertainment.
The team still brings smiles to children’s faces and comedic relief to a lot of folks, but the nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Modern players of their talent now opt for competitive basketball in the NBA or in overseas leagues in search of life changing contracts.
Even though they are no longer one of the most popular teams on the planet, their product has always stayed true to itself, and the comedic showmanship that made them so popular is carried on to this day by the current members of the team. In that regard, the Globetrotters have been an inspiration to many people, including the man considered to be the greatest basketball player who ever lived.
“Meadowlark Lemon is a true national treasure,” NBA Hall of Famer and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan once said. “I watched him play for the Harlem Globetrotters when I was growing up and his skill with the basketball and dedication to the game were an inspiration not only to me, but to kids all around the world.”
Today, the Harlem Globetrotters are not nearly as culture-shifting as they once were, but they are still relevant and important. The legacy of the Harlem Globetrotters continues to teach younger generations about the history of basketball and more specifically the emergence of expression in the game by Black players.
Prior to the Globetrotters spicing up the game of basketball, the players were traditionally very cookie-cutter-like with not much dribbling and little to no flare.
Generations of handle technicians with players such as Kyrie Irving, Allen Iverson and Isiah Thomas were birthed by the way Marques Haynes dribbled the ball. The flashy passes we have seen from “Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Lebron James and Rajon Rondo are rooted in the style the Globetrotters brought to the table.
The high-flying dunks and articulation that represent so much of the sport today will always owe a great deal to the Globetrotters.
During the early days of the NBA, the league was segregated and was not drawing in the crowds it would have liked. Everything changed when the Globetrotters hooked up against the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948. When the Lakers teamed up with the Globetrotters for that unforgettable game, it was a turning point for an all-white NBA.
And for the Globetrotters, their 61-59 win against the Lakers proved they were legit. One year after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in sports by playing for the Brooklyn (later Los Angeles) Dodgers, the Globetrotters provided history with their own watershed integrated moment.
At their peak, the Globetrotters were one of the most exciting shows in town, far more popular than the traditional basketball leagues at the time. So it is no surprise the team could attract top-notch talent such as Wilt Chamberlain.
“You must understand as a kid of color in those days, the Harlem Globetrotters were like being movie stars,” said Chamberlain, who spent a season on the Globetrotters in 1958, before going to the NBA.
The Globetrotters have a diverse fan base because they are more than just a basketball team. Even though they do not still carry the same shine they once did in the 1940s 50s and 60s, their brand of basketball is still synonymous with greatness in the entertainment business.
“As you look out in the crowd you’re going to see a lot of people out there, somebody in their seventies, somebody in their thirties, somebody who’s ten years old. Everybody enjoys the Harlem Globetrotters, you don’t have to be a sports fan, you just got to want to come and have a good time,” said Julian “Zeus” McClurkin, a current Globetrotter who holds the Guinness World Record for most dunks in a minute.
The Harlem Globetrotters paved the way for Black athletes and all athletes alike to make improvisation a part of their game. The early Globetrotters like Tatum and master dribbler Marques Haynes were able to express themselves through the art of basketball.
So are the Harlem Globetrotters still relevant today? Yes, they are. Even though they are not as culturally impactful as they once were because of the ever-evolving changing entertainment value of the game, the Globetrotters are our living legends on the court.
It’s now up to current and future Globetrotters to continue to inspire another generation with their tradition and basketball relevance so that they will never be forgotten.