Sport: Basketball Inducted: 1979 Country: United States Born: July 4, 1902 in London, England Died: March 15, 1966
Abe Saperstein was founder, owner, and coach of the Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1970.
In 1927, following an unspectacular semi-pro baseball and
professional basketball career—he stood 5'5"—Saperstein
took over an all-Negro basketball team called the Savoy
Big Five (named for Chicago's Savoy Ballroom), changed
its name to the Harlem Globetrotters, and created a legend
that is currently well into its second half-century.
The early Trotters were a serious basketball five, sporting
a 101-6 record the first year, 145-13 in 1928, and
151-13 in 1929. Finding difficulty locating willing
opponents, Saperstein conceived the idea of fancy, comedic,
razzle-dazzle type of play, and soon the team became a must-see
attraction on the professional basketball barnstorming circuit.
It was not until 1940 that the Trotters started showing a
profit, and through those lean years, Saperstein was not
only its coach, chauffer, and trainer, he was also the team's
All their clowning notwithstanding, the Globetrotters won
the World Basketball Championship in 1940, giving substance
to Saperstein's long-ignored claim that given the opportunity,
they were among basketball's best. In 1943-44,
the Trotters captured basketball'’s International Cup.
Over the years, the Globetrotters developed into an international
entertainment attraction, playing in more than 80 countries
on five continents, on television, and in motion pictures.
They are undoubtedly the most famous sports organization
in the world, with Saperstein labeled the "Barnum of Basketball"
and his Trot ters known as "America's Number
One Goodwill Ambassadors."
Saperstein was also a pioneering entrepreneur in America's
Negro Baseball League and was a key figure in opening the way
for African-Americans into professional sports.