Harlem Globetrotters
Harlem Globetrotters logo
Founded1926; 98 years ago (1926)
  • 1926–27: Chicago GlobeTrotters
  • 1928–29: New York Harlem Globetrotters
  • 1929–present: Harlem Globetrotters
ArenaBarnstorming team
Team colorsBlue, red, white[1][2]
Head coach
  • "Sweet" Lou Dunbar (coach)
  • Barry Hardy (coach)
OwnershipHerschend Family Entertainment
Primary jersey
Team colours
Secondary jersey
Team colours

The Harlem Globetrotters are an American exhibition basketball team. They combine athleticism, theater, and comedy in their style of play. Over the years, they have played more than 26,000 exhibition games in 124 countries and territories, mostly against deliberately ineffective opponents, such as the Washington Generals (1953–1995, since 2015) and the New York Nationals (1995–2015). The team's signature song is Brother Bones' whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown", and their mascot is an anthropomorphized globe named "Globie". The team is owned by Herschend Family Entertainment.[3]


The Globetrotters originated in 1926, on the South Side of Chicago, where all the original players were raised. They began as the Savoy Big Five, one of the premier attractions of the Savoy Ballroom, opened in January 1928, a basketball team of Black American players that played exhibitions before dances due to declining dance attendance.[4] In 1928, several players left the team in a dispute. That autumn, those players formed a team called the "Globe Trotters" and toured southern Illinois that spring. Abe Saperstein became involved with the team as its manager and promoter. By 1929, Saperstein was touring Illinois and Iowa with his basketball team called the "New York Harlem Globe Trotters". Saperstein selected the name Harlem because it was then considered the center of Black American culture and the name Globetrotter to mythologize the team's international venues.[5]

The 1950 World Series Harlem Globetrotters, with owner Abe Saperstein (right) and team secretary W. S. Welch (left)

The Globetrotters were perennial participants in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, winning it in 1940. In a heavily attended matchup a few years later, the 1948 Globetrotters–Lakers game, the Globetrotters made headlines when they beat one of the best white basketball teams in the country, the Minneapolis Lakers. The Globetrotters continued to easily win games due to Harlem monopolizing the entire talent pool of the best black basketball players in the country. Once one of the most famous teams in the country, the Globetrotters were eventually eclipsed by the rise of the National Basketball Association, particularly when NBA teams began recruiting black players in the 1950s.[6] In 1950, Harlem Globetrotter Chuck Cooper became the first black player to be drafted in the NBA by Boston and teammate Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton became the first black player to sign an NBA contract when the New York Knicks purchased his contract from the Globetrotters for $12,500 (equivalent to $152,000 in 2022),[7] with Harlem getting $10,000 and Clifton getting $2,500.[8]

The Globetrotters gradually worked comic routines into their act—a direction the team has credited to Reece "Goose" Tatum,[9] who joined in 1941—and eventually became known more for entertainment than sports.[10] 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 unusually difficult shots.[11]

In 1952, the Globetrotters invited Louis "Red" Klotz to create a team to accompany them on their tours. This team, the Washington Generals (who also played under various other names), became the Globetrotters' primary opponents. The Generals are effectively stooges for the Globetrotters, with the Globetrotters handily defeating them in thousands of games.[12][13]

The Harlem Globetrotters in the Netherlands (1958)

In 1959, the Globetrotters played nine games in Moscow after Saperstein received an invitation from Vasily Grigoryevich, the director of Lenin Central Stadium.[14] The team, which included Wilt Chamberlain, was welcomed enthusiastically by spectators and authorities, they met Premier Nikita Khrushchev[15] and collectively received the Athletic Order of Lenin medal.[16]

According to one report; however, spectators were initially confused: "A Soviet audience of 14,000 sat almost silently, as if in awe, through the first half of the game. It warmed up slightly in the second half when it realized the Trotters are more show than competition."[17] The Globetrotters brought their own opponent—not the Washington Generals, but the San Francisco Chinese Basketeers.[14] A review in Pravda stated, "This is not basketball; it is too full of tricks" but praised the Globetrotters' skills and suggested that "they have some techniques to show us".[18]

The American press—particularly Drew Pearson—made note of the fact that the Globetrotters were paid (per game) the equivalent of $4,000 (equivalent to $40,000 in 2022),[7] which could be spent only in Moscow. The games were used as evidence that U.S.–Soviet relations were improving, that Moscow was backing off its criticism of race relations inside America, and that the USSR was becoming more capitalist (Pearson suggested that the games were held because Lenin Stadium needed money).[19][20]

In May 1967, New York City–based Metromedia announced that it would acquire the Globetrotters for $1 million, but the deal was never completed and the team was later sold to George N. Gillett Jr., who soon formed a new company called Globetrotter Communications in 1968.[21][22]

Nine years after the company's attempted acquisition in 1976, Metromedia announced that it would re-acquire the Globetrotters for $11 million from Globetrotter Communications.[23]

Many famous basketball players have played for the Globetrotters. Greats such as "Wee" Willie Gardner, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins, Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton later joined the NBA. The Globetrotters signed their first female player, Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard, in 1985.[24]

Because nearly all of the team's players have been black, and as a result of the buffoonery involved in many of the Globetrotters' skits, they drew some criticism during the Civil Rights era. The players were accused by some civil-rights advocates of "Tomming for Abe," a reference to Uncle Tom and owner Abe Saperstein. However, prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (who would later be named an Honorary Globetrotter) 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."[6]

In 1986, as part of the spin-off of Metromedia's television stations to News Corporation and the 20th Century Fox film studio, the company sold the Globetrotters and the Ice Capades to the Minneapolis-based International Broadcasting Corporation (owners of KTAB-TV in Abilene, Texas and controlled by Thomas Scallen) for $30 million.[25][26][27][28][29]

In 1993, former Globetrotters player Mannie Jackson purchased the team from the International Broadcasting Corporation, which was on the verge of bankruptcy.[30]

In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic player on the team. He was the first non-black player on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942–43.[31]

The Globetrotters' Magic Circle in 2019

While parts of a modern exhibition game are pre-planned, the games themselves are not fixed. While their opponents do not interfere with the Globetrotters' hijinks while on defense, they play a serious game when in possession of the ball and about 20 to 30 percent of a game is "real." This once led to an infamous defeat at the hands of the Washington Generals in 1971, to the distress of the watching crowd, after the Globetrotters lost track of a big lead with their tricks and the Generals hit a game-winning buzzer-beater.[32][33]

In September 2005, Shamrock Holdings purchased 80% stake in the Globetrotters.[34][35]

In October 2013, Herschend Family Entertainment announced that it would acquire the Globetrotters from Shamrock Holdings.[36]

In June 2021, the Globetrotters filed a petition to join the National Basketball Association (NBA) as an expansion franchise.[37]

Current roster

Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB From
G 0 Tompkins, Justin "X-Over" 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m) Borough of Manhattan CC
F 1 Porter, Arysia "Ace" 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) St. Mary's (TX)
G 3 Artis, Darnell "Speedy" 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) Gwynedd Mercy
F 5 Mack, Chandler "Bulldog" 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) Freed–Hardeman
F 6 Hopkins, Mia "Mighty" 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) West Chester
G 9 Swanson, Jahmani "Hot Shot" 4 ft 5 in (1.35 m) Monroe
G 10 George, Cherelle "Torch" 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) Purdue
G 11 Chisholm, Brawley "Cheese" 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Ball State
F 12 Barerra, Jason "Buckets" 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) Mount Saint Vincent
F 15 Castenada, Mia "Ice" 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) Washburn
G 16 Christensen, Shane "Scooter" 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Montana
G 17 Kirkendoll, Travion "Diesel" 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Centenary
G 18 Lister, Fatima "TNT" 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) Temple
G 19 White, Saul "Flip" 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) * Moraine Valley CC
G 21 Garcia, Carl "Lights Out" 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Miles
F 23 Law, Corey "Thunder" 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) High Point
F 25 Moore, Malik "Prime Time" 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) USC Upstate
F 27 Kirk, Shaun "Airport" 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) UNC Pembroke
F 28 Ballard, Joe "Jumpin" 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) Glenville State
F 29 Clayborne, Evan "Beast" 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) UNC Asheville
F 30 McClurkin, Julian "Zeus" 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) North Carolina A&T
F 31 Harrison, Donte "Hammer" 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) Hampton
G 32 Rivers, Latif "Jet" 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Wagner
F 38 Blount, Jr., Mark "Splash"
G 40 Middleton, Rock "Wham" 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) Savannah State
F 41 Dunbar, Louis "Sweet Lou II" 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) Oklahoma City
F 42 Sharpless, Angelo "Spider" 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Elizabeth City State
F 43 Porter-Brunton, Chris "Turbo" 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Austin Peay
F 44 Moss, Prince "Baller" 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) Grambling State
F 45 Weekes, Alex "Moose" 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) Middle Tennessee
F 46 Oliver, Guy "Springs" 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) Indiana State
F 47 De La Rosa, Joey "Hot Rod" 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) St. John's
G 48 Kidoń, Paweł "Dazzle" 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) Zubrzyca Dolna, Poland
F 49 London, Malik "Jammin" 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) UT Martin
G 51 Winston, Lucius "Too Tall" 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) Tuskegee
F 54 Mitchell, Brandon "Hi-Rise" 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) San José State
F 55 McClure, Randy "Crash" 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Albany State
F 55 Jackson, Zavian "Sky" 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) Arkansas–Pine Bluff
F 57 Moody, Mario "Bounce" 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) Bethune–Cookman
G 58 Pearce, Max "Hops" 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) Purchase College
Head coach
  • Vacant

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Last transaction: 2023-04-24



Starting in 2007, the Globetrotters have conducted an annual "draft" a few days before the NBA draft, in which they select players they feel fit the mold of a Globetrotter. Being drafted by the Globetrotters does not guarantee a spot on the team, although several drafted players have gone on to become Globetrotters: Anthony "Ant" Atkinson (2007), Brent Petway (2007), William "Bull" Bullard (2008), Tay "Firefly" Fisher (2008), Charlie Coley III (2009), Paul "Tiny" Sturgess (2011), Jacob "Hops" Tucker (2011), Darnell "Spider" Wilks (2011), Bryan "B-Nice" Narcisse (2012), Tyrone Davis (2013), Corey "Thunder" Law (2013), Tyler "Iceman" Inman (2014) Devan "Beast" Douglas (2016), and AJ "Money" Merriweather.[39]

Other notable draft picks by the Globetrotters include: Sun Mingming (2007), Patrick Ewing Jr. (2008), Sonny Weems (2008), Taylor Griffin (2009), Tim Howard (2009), Mark Titus (2010), Lionel Messi (2011), Jordan McCabe, then 12 years old (2011), Andrew Goudelock (2011), Usain Bolt (2012), Mariano Rivera (2013), Brittney Griner (2013), Johnny Manziel (2014), Landon Donovan (2014), Mo'ne Davis (2015), Dude Perfect (2015), Kevin Hart (2016), Neymar (2016), Missy Franklin (2016), Jordan Spieth (2016), Craig Sager (2016), Gal Gadot (2017), Aaron Judge (2017), Tim Tebow (2017), Paul Pogba (2018), Joseph Kilgore (2018), Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (2018), Mahershala Ali (2019), Mookie Betts (2020), and Chadwick Boseman (2020).[40][41][42][43][44]

Retired numbers

The Globetrotters have honored eight players by retiring their numbers:

A basketball player, wearing a blue jersey with the word "ORIGINAL HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS" on the front, is posing while holding a basketball.
Wilt Chamberlain, the first Globetrotter to have his jersey number retired, played for the Globetrotters from 1958 to 1959.
Harlem Globetrotters retired numbers
No. Player Tenure Date retired
13 Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain 1958–59 March 9, 2000
20 Marques Haynes 1947–53, 1972–79 January 5, 2001
22 Fred "Curly" Neal 1963–85 February 15, 2008
34 Charles "Tex" Harrison 1954–72 December 26, 2017
35 Hubert "Geese" Ausbie 1961–85 January 31, 2017
36 Meadowlark Lemon 1954–79, 1993[45] January 5, 2001
41 "Sweet" Lou Dunbar 1977–current February 15, 2019
50 Goose Tatum 1941–43, 1945–55[46] February 8, 2002

In mass media/popular culture

Soupy Sales and the Harlem Globetrotters; from a 1969 television special
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Video games

Honorary members

Ten people have been officially named as honorary members of the team:[55]

In addition, Bill Cosby (1972) and Magic Johnson (2003) were each signed to honorary $1-a-year lifetime contracts with the Globetrotters.[59][60][61] When Cosby's nominal association with the team was the subject of criticism following sexual assault allegations, the Globetrotters stated that they have had no association with him for decades.[61]



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