I saw this youtube movie linked (the soundtrack got a little raunchy and since I'd like kids to use this site I substituted some more of the great Max Roach with the Clifford Brown quintet (Clifford Brown(tp),Max Roach(ds),Richie Powell(p),Harold Land(ts),George Morrow(b) playing
a segment of their "I'll Remember April") to the Chicagoist blog with this story
Last week we were channel surfing and came across "The Harlem Globetrotters: A New Generation" on Channel 50. We watched it for a little bit and were caught up in both the athleticism of the new Globetrotters and the timeless entertainment of their gags. It reminded us of the days when ABC's "Wide World of Sports" would showcase the team seemingly every other month. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to be associated with a Chicago team, but the Globetrotters are arguably the most recognizable squad to ever come out of Chicago. Originally called the Savoy Big Five, the team consisted of former students of Wendell Phillips High School brought together by Abe Saperstein as a means to draw crowds to the recently opened Savoy Ballroom at 4733 South Parkway. Saperstein eventually renamed them the "Harlem" Globetrotters because of the wide-reaching influence of the Harlem Renaissance on African-American culture at the time (an aside: the Globetrotters didn't play their first "home" game until 1968). It also flows off the tongue more freely than "Savoy Big Five" or even "Bronzeville Globetrotters."
The Harlem Globetrotters is an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism and comedy. Created by Abe Saperstein in 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, the team adopted the name Harlem because of its connotations as a major African-American 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.
There is no clear consensus as to the very beginnings of the Globetrotters. The official history ] contains several details which are clearly untrue, such as the team being organized in 1926 in the Savoy Ballroom, which opened in 1927. What is clear is that the genesis of the Globetrotters takes place in the South Side of Chicago in the 1920s, where all the original players grew up. Most of the players also attended Wendell Phillips High School. When the Savoy Ballroom opened in November of 1927, one of the premier attractions was the Savoy Big Five, a basketball team that played exhibitions before dances. In 1928, several players left the team in a dispute over bringing back other players who had left the team. That fall, several players led by Tommy Brookins formed a team called the "Globe Trotters" which would tour southern Illinois that spring. Abe Saperstein became involved with the team, though to exactly what extent is unclear. In any event, by 1929 Saperstein was touring Illinois and Iowa with his basketball team, called the "New York Harlem Globe Trotters". Saperstein decided to pick Harlem as their home city since Harlem was considered the center of African-American culture at the time, and an out of town team name would give the team more of a mystique. After four decades of existence, the Globetrotters played their first "home" game in Harlem in 1968.
The first star player of those early Globe Trotters (the name would be merged into one word later on) was Albert "Runt" Pullins, an adept dribbler and shooter. Soon he would be joined by 7'4" Inman Jackson, who played center and had a flair for showboating. They would originate the two roles that would stay with the 'trotters for decades, the showman and the dribbler.
The Globetrotters were initially a serious competitive team, and despite a flair for entertainment, they would only clown for the audience after establishing a safe lead in the game. In 1939, they accepted an invitation to participate in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, where they met the New York Rens in the semi-finals in the first big clash of the two greatest all-black professional basketball teams. The Rens defeated the Globetrotters and went on to win the Tournament, but in 1940 the Globetrotters avenged their loss by defeating the Rens in the quarterfinals and advancing to the championship game, where they beat the Chicago Bruins in overtime by a score of 37–36.
The Globetrotters beat the premier professional team, the Minneapolis Lakers (led by George Mikan), for two years in a row in 1948 and 1949, with the Lakers winning later contests. The February 1948 win (by a score of 61-59, on a buzzer beater) was a hallmark in professional basketball history, as the all-black Globetrotters proved they were on an equal footing with the all-white Lakers. Momentum for ending the National Basketball Association's color line grew, and in 1950, Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted by an NBA team, the Boston Celtics. From that time on the Globetrotters had increasing difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.
Tony Peyton was the last living member of the original Globetrotters. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1996. He died in Midland, Texas, on July 23, 2007, at the age of eighty-five.