Saperstein, Abe : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Saperstein, Abe

Abraham M. Saperstein

Saperstein, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, was the creator, owner, and coach of the Harlem Globetrotters. Abe helped bring a wonderful level of amusement and entertainment to the game of basketball.

When asked how he came to use the name, he said: "We chose Harlem because, well, because Harlem was to the fellows what Jerusalem is to us. And Globetrotters? Well, we had dreams. We hoped to travel. We made it, all right. We made it all the way to Israel, as a matter of fact." In 1954, a movie about Saperstein and the Trotters called Go, Man, Go was released.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. July 4, 1902 - d. March 15, 1966

Career Highlights:
Saperstein was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973. The "Trotters" initially began as an American Legion team called the Savoy Big Five (named for Chicago's Savoy Ballroom). In 1926, Saperstein was asked to coach the team, and the following year, he changed their name to the Globetrotters, bought a Model-T Ford from a funeral director and piled his players inside, to go on the road. In January, 1927, they played their first game in Hinckley, Illinois for $75.

As they traveled across the country playing games, it became apparent that the team was winning too easily (they had a record of 397-32 their first three years), so Saperstein added some horseplay and fun into each game. He later said: "Laugh standards are the same all over the world, and that is our playing area. Wars, depressions, chaos, and one crisis after another are commonplace all around the world. Our fans, and there are millions of them, are looking for an escape from worry and tension when they come out to see us play and we never want to fail them." Between 1927-1967, the Globetrotters played before five million fans, including 75,000 on one occasion in Berlin in 1951. In January 1998, the Globetrotters posted their 20,000th victory.

London, England

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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
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The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)