The Rise of Abe Saperstein and the Harlem Globetrotters

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Abe Saperstein: An Unconventional Champion of Civil Rights

In 1924 a young Jewish man named Abe Saperstein was chosen to coach an African American semi pro basketball team called the Giles Post American Legion Quintet. Little did he know that with this position he would eventually revolutionize the game of basketball and help to initiate integration throughout the country, while establishing himself as an unknown and unconventional hero. Saperstein was a masterful promoter and businessman who would build the most well known sports franchise in history. He was also a visionary who knew the immense impact that African Americans could have on the game of basketball and was determined to force integration throughout the game of basketball. By forming his own successful African American team, Saperstein pioneered the integration of the National Basketball Association, and changed the way the game of basketball was played.

Though Saperstein was born in London, England in 1902, he spent his childhood in Chicago and always having a fascination for basketball. After becoming the coach of the Giles Post semi-pro team, the team turned professional in 1926 and assumed the name the "Savoy Big Five". Under Saperstein's guidance, the team played in the famous Chicago's Savoy Ballroom, but in late 1926 three of the players, Inman Jackson, Lester Johnson, and Walter Wright got into a dispute with then manager Dick Hudson, and quit. But Saperstein had big plans; he and the three disgruntled players banded together with two new players and formed the Harlem Globetrotters. On January 7, 1927 Saperstein's Globetrotters played their first game in Hinckley Illinois and won handily, then the Globetrotters set off on a cross country tour in which they won 101 of 117 games, often by large margins. In the early years many of the people who attended the Globetrotters games had never interacted with people of African heritage. So Saperstein was in a sense integrating the...
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