The Harlem Globetrotters was the brainchild of Abe Saperstein, a Chicago businessman who assumed coaching duties of the group of African-American basketball players who initially were known as the Savoy Big Five. The team played its first game as the Harlem Globetrotters on Jan. 7, 1927.
During an era when Black players were not allowed to be on major white teams, Saperstein decided to highlight the team of African-American athletes by naming them after American’s most famous Black neighborhood: Harlem.
They traveled nearly 50 miles from Chicago to Hinckley, Illinois, to play their first game as the Harlem Globetrotters. The Globetrotters won 101 out of 117 games that first season and introduced many Midwestern audiences to a game they had not seen played before.
The Harlem Globetrotters didn’t actually play a game in Harlem until the late 1960s. Over the years, the Harlem Globetrotters took their skills to more than 115 countries and played before more than 120 million fans. The team has been the subject of two feature films and numerous television shows, including two animated series in the 1970s.
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(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)