Spinning The Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return To Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters

By Tom Donelson
Updated: December 27, 2005

Harlem GlobetrottersNEW HAVEN, Ct. — In many ways, the Harlem Globetrotters can easily be called the world’s most famous basketball team. They’ve played in every arena from South Africa to South Beach. They’ve had Hall of Famers like Wilt Chamberlain and Marques Haynes wear their prestigious red, white and blue uniform.

To some they’re the “Clown Princes of Basketball” of an painful era gone by. To others, they were the pioneers that paved the way for guys like “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” and “Skip To My Lou” of the And 1 Streetball Tour.

No matter how you may feel about them and or the game of basketball, when ever you mention the Trotters, there’s sure to be a lively debate about where they may or may not stand in the grand history of hoops.

While there have been many books and articles written about them over the years, author Tom Green has put together one of the most definitive narratives about the Globbies and their long history.

In “Spinning The Globe: The Rise, Fall and Return To Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters”, Green tells the story of this extraordinary franchise and iconic American institution.

Through original research, Green also uncovers intriguing controversies about the Globetrotters’ origins, their image in the African American community, and how they were used as a propaganda weapon during the Cold War.

Green offers several interesting portraits of founder Abe Saperstein and the players who defined the Trotters’ legacy, including Haynes, Inman Jackson, Goose Tatum, Meadowlark Lemon, and Curly Neal.

He also describes the Trotters’ struggles to overcome racial discrimination and internal dissension on their long road to glory. He also details the Globetrotters’ fall from grace to the brink of bankruptcy in the early 1990s, and the ultimate rebirth under current owner and former Globetrotter Mannie Jackson.

Of their formative years, Green writes: “The Harlem Globetrotters were not just a great barnstorming team; they were a sociology class on wheels, bringing black hoops and black culture to a hundred Midwestern towns that had seen neither, and in the process transforming Dr. James Naismith’s stodgy, wearisome game — which was still sometimes played in chicken-wire cages by roughneck immigrants with flailing elbows and bloodied skulls, a sport more resembling rugby — into an orchestration of speed, fluidity, motion, dazzling skill, and, most improbably, inspired comedy.”

Since those humble beginnings, the franchise has enjoyed worldwide success on and off the court. Back in 2002, they were inducted as a team into the Basketball Hall of Fame. They joined legendary franchises like the Harlem Rens, who paved the way for the Trotters, with their spot in the sun.

At the time, The Globetrotters were just the fifth team and the first since 1963, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Said team owner Mannie Jackson, “To have finally been inducted and recognized by the most elite group in the game was, in my opinion, a testament to the greatness and lasting impact of the Harlem Globetrotters”.

Green’s book offers an different insight on the Globetrotters and sheds new light on a team and a phenomenon that has stretched all over the globe.

You don’t need to be a fan of basketball to enjoy this book.