The Harlem Globetrotters want in on the NBA’s expansion plans.
The team claims that historically, the NBA did not work with it in the league’s integration process, but instead poached Globetrotters players.
The Globetrotters — an exhibition basketball team that integrates comedy and theater into its play — published an open letter to commissioner Adam Silver to make them an NBA franchise.
“Based on what we’ve already proven, we can field a team of talent on par with the pros of today, and we want the chance to do that,” the Globetrotters wrote. “As a world renowned and legendary professional basketball team, we petition Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA governors and the powers that be to grant The Original Harlem Globetrotters an NBA franchise. Not now, but right now!”
The team, founded in 1926, has a long history with the NBA. The Globetrotters played against the then-world champion Minneapolis Lakers in 1948 and 1949 when the NBA was still all-white. Harlem won both games.
That next year, the NBA signed its first Black player, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who was a member of the Globetrotters. Earl Lloyd, the first Black man to play in an NBA game, was a Globetrotter as well.
“Three years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier, y’all finally allowed African American players to ball. But instead of just letting us in, you took our players,” the Globetrotters wrote.
In their letter, they acknowledge the role the NBA has played in the growth of professional basketball, but feel that they were its real innovators and popularizers.
“Congratulations on growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry with international endeavors and huge media deals,” the Globetrotters wrote. “… It’s time to right the wrongs and rewrite history. It’s time for the NBA to honor what the Globetrotters have done for OUR sport, both here in the U.S. and around the globe.”
To date, the Globetrotters have achieved 27,000 wins in all competitions.
There have been many NBA players who have competed on Harlem’s roster such as Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins, and Nat Clifton.
“We continued to pack arenas and grow the game of basketball across the globe,” the Globetrotters wrote. “When the NBA struggled to draw more than a few thousand fans, we agreed to schedule doubleheaders featuring the Globetrotters. As the NBA grew, you were able to attract the best Black players, but we remember who helped the NBA get it all started … don’t get it twisted; basketball would not be what it is today without us.”