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Harlem Globetrotters thriving in the South

While the name doesn’t roll off the tongue and wasn’t exactly what founder Abe Saperstein had in mind when he started the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team in 1927, if you want to be geographically correct, the Peachtree Corners Globetrotters it is.

The internationally famous Harlem Globetrotters, beginning its 90th season of entertaining fans around the world, are located in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, opening its doors in Technology Park in May 2016.

The Harlem Globetrotters basketball organization moved to the northeast Atlanta suburb in May 2016, after being headquartered in Phoenix, AZ. 

Team President Howard Smith said there were several reasons why the team chose to relocate to Peachtree Corners. According to Smith, with Atlanta being a central travel hub and the expansion of business opportunities beyond I-285 into the suburbs, specifically Gwinnett County, it made the decision to move an easy choice. Herschend Entertainment, the Globetrotters’ parent company, is also located in the metro Atlanta area, in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County. 

“Shortly after being acquired by Atlanta based Herschend Enterprises, we moved the Globetrotter’s Corporate Headquarters and global business operations to the Atlanta area from Phoenix,” Smith said. “Being co-located with the parent company clearly weighed heavily in our decision, but we also recognized the many strategic advantages that the Atlanta area provides for the organization: home to many Fortune 500 companies, a passionate sports community, a thriving entertainment industry, two first-class arenas, a skilled talent pool and the best airport in the world — which comes in handy for us Globetrotters.”

The move to Gwinnett County means the Globetrotters now essentially have two home courts: One in Duluth and another in downtown Atlanta. The Globetrotters’ recent home stand included two games at the Infinite Energy Arena and two more at Philips Arena over the last two weekends.

Herschend Entertainment, whose corporate offices are located in Technology Park in Peachtree Corners, bought the team in October 2013.

The Harlem Globetrotters enter their 90th season of play since Saperstein put the team together in the 1920s. They have played in 122 countries and on six continents, entertaining generations of fans, young and old alike. Contrary to the Harlem moniker, originally stitched on the team’s jerseys by Saperstein himself, the Globetrotters were never located in Harlem.

The Globetrotters were Saperstein’s creation, who called Chicago home. He took over coaching duties for a team of African-American players originally known as the Savoy Big Five – named after the famous Chicago ballroom where the team played their early games. This was an era of racial segregation in professional sports, not just basketball, and Saperstein decided to promote the Globetrotters’ racial makeup by naming them after Harlem, according to the Harlem Globetrotters website and outfitted the team in their signature red, white and blue uniforms. 

The Globetrotters’ original lineup included Walter “Toots” Wright, Byron “Fat” Long, Willis “Kid” Oliver, Andy Washington and Al “Runt” Pullins.

The Globetrotters played serious basketball until the late 1930s when Saperstein suggest the team add its recent clowning around antics and sharpshooter ball-handling skills to its repertoire.

Some of the best know ambassadors to the game of basketball were Harlem Globetrotters and included Marques Haynes, Goose Tatum, Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.

NBA players who began their careers playing for the Harlem Globetrotters include Hall of Famer Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain, Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton. In 1985, Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard became the first female Globetrotter.

Also, Major League Baseball Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Bob Gibson, and Ferguson Jenkins also played for the team at one time or another.

According to the website, the Globetrotters didn’t play a game in Harlem until the late 1960s.

After Saperstein’s death in 1966, the team was sold to a group of Chicago businessmen for $3.7 million; they later sold it to Metro Media for $11 million.