Their Pioneering Efforts Made Basketball What It Is Today

PushBlack
June 6, 2019

Who knew the original Harlem Globetrotters of the 1920s weren’t even from Harlem?! They started as a small group of southside Chicago players known as the Savoy Big Five.

The team played exhibition games, marketing their talent across the state of Illinois until a name change and good promo rocketed their skills to the world stage.

By the 1940s, the Harlem Globetrotters were World Championship winners, defeating the reigning NBA champions, the (then) Minneapolis Lakers.

While the basketball we enjoy today is dominated by Black athletes, the Globetrotters paved the way for Black players to finally be considered for inclusion in the segregated big leagues.

The first Black player to sign an NBA contract, Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton, came from the Globetrotters ranks along with other NBA and WNBA legends Wilt Chamberlain and Lynette Woodard, respectively.

The team has also made strides in diversity and inclusion in their back office too.

When Mannie Jackson purchased the team in 1993, the team’s transfer to Black ownership made Jackson a pioneer in international sports and entertainment company ownership.

Though the team played zero frills basketball at their start, their world record-setting athleticism, light-hearted family-friendly routines, international diplomacy tours, and inclusion of disabled players (as early as 1946) have cemented their legacy as original trendsetters who live up to their motto as “ambassadors of goodwill.”

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