The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater and comedy. Created by Abe Saperstein in 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, the team adopted the name Harlem because of its connotations as a major black community.
Over the years they have played more than 20,000 exhibition games in 118 countries. Brother Bones's whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" is the team's signature song. Globie has been their mascot since 1993.
In January 1952, the Harlem Globetrotters lost to the Seattle University Chieftains (now Redhawks) in an upset, 84-81. After losing to the Washington Generals in 1962, the Harlem Globetrotters lost only two more games in the next 38 years (12,596 games).
Usually they played a "stooge" team owned by Red Klotz, which also appeared as the Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds, Baltimore Rockets, or Atlantic City Seagulls. On January 5, 1971 they lost in Martin, Tennessee to the New Jersey Reds, 100/99 in overtime; that ended an alleged 9,001-game winning streak (which means that the Globetrotters were playing 277 games per year up until that date).
In addition to their hundreds of exhibition games, the Globetrotters slowly returned to competitive basketball after 1993 under the new ownership of former player Mannie Jackson. On September 12, 1995, they lost 91/85 to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's All Star Team in Vienna, Austria ending an alleged run of 8,829 straight victories going back to 1971.
The 48-year-old Abdul-Jabbar scored 34 points. The 8,829 games in twenty-four years would mean the Globetrotters were playing nearly 368 games per year, or more than one game a day some days, for twenty-four years.
This is due to the fact that multiple team line-ups tour as The Globetrotters to allow for a greater number of exhibitions.
The Globetrotters won the other 10 games during that European tour. Five years later, following another 1270 wins, they lost 72/68 to Michigan State University, the reigning men's collegiate champions on November 13, 2000.
Two years later they "set aside the hallmarks" for a "three-week, no-nonsense tour against college teams" from men's Division One. "There are no ballhandling displays to the tune of "Sweet Georgia Brown", no buckets of water or confetti thrown, and no Washington Generals to act as their inept foils." On November 10 and 11 at Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland, another defending champion, they lost close games to both teams, their first consecutive defeats since 1961. Yet the tour probably marked a decade of improvement as a competitive team.
On November 3, 2003, the Globetrotters had a streak of 288 consecutive victories snapped after suffering an 89-88 loss to the UTEP Miners, who had just six victories the season before. It was their only loss during an eight-game college tour, where the Globetrotters had defeated Michigan State (97-83), UMass (77-68) and defending national champion Syracuse (83-70).
On February 27, 2006, the Globetrotters extended their overall record to exactly 22,000 wins. Their most recent loss came on March 31, 2006, when they went down 87/83 to the NABC College All-Stars to bring their loss tally to just 345, a winning percentage of 98.4%. According to the Globetrotters' website, all of the Globetrotters' exhibition games are real games.
The Globetrotters gradually worked comic routines into their act until they became known more for entertainment than sports. The Globetrotters' acts often feature incredible coordination and skillful handling of one or more basketballs, such as passing or juggling balls between players, balancing or spinning balls on their fingertips, and making unusual, difficult shots.
Because almost all of its players have been African American, and because of the buffoonery involved in many of the Globetrotters' skits, they drew some criticism in the Civil Rights era. The players were derisively accused of "Tomming for Abe", a reference to Uncle Tom and white owner Abe Saperstein.
However, prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson came to their defense by stating, "I think they've been a positive influence... They did not show blacks as stupid. On the contrary, they were shown as superior." In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic and the first non-black on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942-43.