NBA

The Harlem Globetrotters Upset of the Lakers Changed Basketball Forever

The Harlem Globetrotters might be one of the most well-known sports teams in the world. Even people who aren’t into sports know about this illustrious team, and with good reason. The group may not be a part of the NBA, but they’re a team that gets out in the community and makes a difference.

Whether it’s visiting kids in public schools and playing against local teachers, or helping Scooby-Doo and the Gang solve mysteries, the Harlem Globetrotters get off the court and into the real world. From the founding of the team to the current era, the Harlem Globetrotters has been breaking down barriers not only for the Black community, but for every child who watches them and wonders ‘what if.’

The Harlem Globetrotters have an epic history that has helped shape the NBA

The history of the Harlem Globetrotters is absolutely fascinating. According to The History Channel, the Harlem Globetrotters team was not started in Harlem. It actually began in Chicago in 1926. 

The original members were a group of basketball players who used to go to Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School. They reunited to play against another team known as the Giles Post American Legion that traveled around America barnstorming. 

The Harlem Globetrotters, then known as the Savoy Big Five, enjoyed playing together and began to play for entertainment. After a pay dispute, a few of the players bolted away from the Savoy Big Five and formed the Globetrotters.

The Globetrotter’s manager Abe Saperstein decided to rename the team as New York Harlem Globetrotters. He had a couple of reasons for doing this. The first reason was that it made it clear the Harlem Globetrotters were a Black team, The second reason was that the name made it sound like the team traveled from far away to be there in locations like Iowa.

The group began to add in tricks to their game in the ’30s and gained the world’s attention when they beat the Minneapolis Lakers, which we’ll get more into later. This proved that Black players were just as good, if not better in some cases, than any white player on the court.

The Harlem Globetrotters defeated the Minneapolis Lakers in an upset that reshaped the NBA

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According to Sports Illustrated, the game that changed the face of basketball in America forever happened in 1948. A Black team was going to face off against an all-white team. All bets were placed on the Minneapolis Lakers, because they were the ‘premier team in the NBA.’

The game was to take place in the Chicago stadium, which typically drew up to 9,000 fans per game. For this history-changing event, there were over 18,000. 

The game started off in the Laker’s favor. Thanks to Hall of Famer George Mikan the Lakers were able to pull out a score of 32-23. The Harlem Globetrotters worked as a team however and were able to double up on Mikan, effectively shutting him down.

Now that Mikan was taken care of, the Harlem Globetrotters were able to catch up with the Lakers, and managed to tie the game at 59-59 with only 1:30 on the clock going into the fourth. 

90 seconds may not be that long of a time, but it can seem like an eternity when so much is on the line. Most basketball games mean nothing at the end of the day, but as time would tell, this game would change history.

Marques Haynes, one of the best ball handlers the Harlem Globetrotters had, spent almost the entire minute and a half dribbling the ball. The Lakers might have been the premier team in the NBA, but their defense team totally failed to shut Haynes down. 

With just seconds on the clock, Haynes passed the ball to fellow Globetrotter Ermer Robinson, who went for a midrange shot. The ball fell through the net with a soft swish, and the Harlem Globetrotters won the game and so much more. The final score was 61-59.

This wasn’t the only victory for the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1949, they would get a rematch with the Lakers. The Harlem Globetrotters won this game as well, proving that the first game was not just a fluke as some may have tried to claim. It was won based off talent, hard work, and a love for the game.

The Harlem Globetrotters have had a huge impact on the world

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To say that this game reshaped the NBA was an understatement. It redefined the NBA. It wasn’t an immediate change, but it happened.

Unfortunately, it would be two full years before there were any real changes. In 1950, the NBA finally decided to integrate by signing Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton to the New York Kicks.

Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper soon followed. While Wataru Misaka, a Japanese player, was the first non-white player to join the NBA, the actions of the Harlem Globetrotters will never be forgotten.

Today, there are players from all nationalities in the NBA. This just shows that while the Harlem Globetrotters were a Black team, they broke down the doors that barred others out as well.