The Harlem Globetrotters are pro athletes who don't spit on refs, punch opposing team members or abuse fans; they're funny, as American as apple pie and a slam-dunk crowd-pleaser from Iceland to Zimbabwe.
In the 83 years the world's funniest basketball team has been on the court, the players' names have changed, but their ball-spinning, speed-dribbling, fake-out passing shtick has consistently inspired and amused audiences.
The late Abe Saperstein formed the group in 1927 in Chicago, Ill. There was good money to be made on the road in those days, and the Globetrotters used to go around the country like carnival fighters, taking on all comers, sometimes spotting them points.
No one is quite sure when it became a sitcom. In 1942, Reece "Goose" Tatum joined the troupe. Tatum could do anything with a basketball Houdini could do with handcuffs or Blackstone a deck of cards — pull a live dove from it, if necessary. The Globetrotters’ acts are known for the coordination and skillful handling of one or more basketballs, with juggling, balancing, spinning and making unusual, difficult shots.
Marcus Haynes and other Globetrotters appeared in the feature film “The Harlem Globetrotters” (1951). Hanna-Barbera’s Saturday morning cartoon about the team, “Harlem Globetrotters,” aired from 1970 to 1973.
In 1995, Orlando Antigua became the first Hispanic and the first non-black on the Globetrotters' roster since Bob Karstens played with the squad in 1942-43.
In their red, white and blue uniforms, the Globetrotters may be best known as comedians, but they are also excellent athletes and positive, accessible role models, walking the talk of their message. And the team doesn’t disappear after a game — greeting audience members and signing autographs are post-game priorities.