The Harlem Globetrotters, A Game Of ‘Reems’ And Equality

April 3, 2014

harlem globetrotters1A long time has passed since the first teams were formed by athletic clubs in the 1920s, but basketball still occupies a prominent place amongst Harlem’s entertainments.The Globetrotters And Their ‘Reems’

One of the most unique basketball teams located in Harlem that have gained worldwide recognition are the Harlem Globetrotters. Formed in Chicago in 1926 and formerly known as the Savory Big Five, this team is famous for combining their amazing basketball playing skills with comedy and entertainment in their games.

It is said that the genesis of the Globetrotters took place in the Savoy Ballroom, Harlem, where the team played exhibitions before dances. Abe Saperstein, owner and coach of the Savory Big Five, decided to organize a game between his team and five members of the audience, betting 100 dollars on the Big Five winning. Of course, he won the bet and the legend started. If you like to support your team, check out for more information, Saperstein has proven that even with really big odds, it’s best not to make a bet against the Globetrotters.

Any sport is a game of skill, predictable up to a certain extent if you know the players’ potential, but when it comes to predicting the outcome of Globetrotters games you have to take their ‘wizardry’ into account.

They debuted in 1927 as an all-African American team called New York Globetrotters and they later changed their name to Harlem Globetrotters in 1930 to better reflect their predominant roots. During its early years, the team competed as all the other ‘regular’ basketball teams, until their game changed direction thanks to Reece “Goose” Tatum who joined the team in 1941 introducing fantastic comedy moves. These comedic routines, called ‘reems’ by the Globetrotters, soon became the trademark of the team.

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(Picture taken from the following reference: “Reece “Goose” Tatum, of the Harlem Globetrotters, holding the ball, 1952” © UPI/Bettmann Archive

Throughout their history, the original Harlem Globetrotters have toured the world, showcasing their iconic star performers in 120 countries and territories on six continents, entertaining hundreds of millions of fans thanks to their successful formula. They even had an audience in front of the Pope John XXIII and would also serve as goodwill ambassadors during the Cold War, going on a sold-out tour of the Soviet Union in 1959.

 (Video taken from the following reference: Youtube, “109’9” World record

A Game For Racial Equality

With their blend of athletics and comedy, the Harlem Globetrotters have achieved remarkable goals at a time of deep racial segregation and discrimination in America, helping to introduce basketball all over the world and inspiring athletes of all races.

Their victory in the 1940 World Tournament of Basketball and their subsequent wins over the National Basketball League champions Minneapolis Lakers in 1948 and 1949 enhanced their reputation but even after the integration of the NBA in 1950, the Globetrotters had to struggle in order to be taken seriously as a straight basketball team. From 1950 to 1962 they played against teams of college all-stars, winning 162 games; since the conclusion of this series, the Globetrotters have all but abandoned straight basketball in place of acrobatic moves. Against real competition, they generally dropped the reems although keeping their attitude, freelancing and having fun, in opposition to the more regimented game of their competitors. In fact, their greatest strength has been in demonstrating how basketball could be a fun form of entertainment open to all ages and races.

The Globetrotters Star Performers

Some of the Globetrotters standout player-performers included Reece “Goose” Tatum, Fred “Curly” Neal and Clarence Wilson “Meadowlark” Lemon. Also NBA legend Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain played with the Globetrotters as well as Lynette Woodard, who was the first woman to play professional basketball. Even celebrities such as Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Bill Cosby have been awarded honorary team membership.

(Video taken from the following reference: Youtube, “Amazing! 3 Globetrotters take on full team”

Prior to the integration of the NBA, playing for the Globetrotters was nearly the only way for an African American to make a living from basketball. So much time has passed and so many things have changed since then, and nowadays the Harlem Globetrotters continue a world famous tradition of comedic set pieces and acrobatic shots that continue to thrill their fans.

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