It’s nearly impossible to think of the Harlem Globetrotters without imagining a spinning basketball with their whistled anthem in the background.
The team has been traveling the country – and the globe – for more than 90 years entertaining fans with their on-court antics. In advance of their visit to Spokane on Thursday, here are five facts about the Harlem Globetrotters:
The team started in Chicago. The Globetrotters formed in the 1920s playing small towns in Illinois and eventually landing a residency at the Savoy Ballroom where they took the name the Savoy Big Five. They rebranded themselves the Harlem Globetrotters as a marketing gimmick. “Harlem” linked them to the center of African American culture, and “Globetrotters” implied that they competed around the world.
Globetrotters hold 21 world records. In 2018 for Guinness World Records Day, the team added five new titles. Those included two by Zeus McClurkin – most blindfolded basketball slam dunks in one minute (five) and most behind-the-back three-pointers in one minute (three).
The Globetrotters don’t always win. For a basketball game to be a game, there has to be two teams. For the Globetrotters, the other team is usually the Washington Generals, although that team has gone by other names, too, including Boston Shamrocks, New York Nationals and New Jersey Reds. The Reds famously beat the Globetrotters 100-99 back in 1971. Word is children in the stands cried. But it wasn’t the first time. The Generals franchise also defeated the Globetrotters in 1954 and 1958.
It’s a co-ed team. The first woman to join was Lynette Woodard, who came to the team in 1985 a year after winning Olympic gold as captain of the U.S. women’s team. She also played in the WNBA and is the NCAA all-time leading scorer for women’s basketball with 3,649 points.
“Sweet Georgia Brown” had a life before the Globetrotters. The song was first recorded in 1925 by Ben Bernie and His Orchestra. It was No. 1 on the pop charts for five weeks. Over the decades, it’s been recorded by some big names, including Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Roberta Flack and Bing Crosby, who took the song to No. 2 on the charts in 1932. The whistling version made famous by the Globetrotters was recorded in 1949 by Brother Bones and his Shadows. At the time, it reached No. 10. The Globetrotters adopted it as their theme song in 1952.
Sources: WTTW Chicago Public Media, harlemglobetrotters.com, Washington Generals, jazzstandards.com, espn.com and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
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