The Harlem Globetrotters are now officially part of the Atlanta landscape.
On Monday, the company opened corporate offices in Peachtree Corners after 20 years based in Phoenix.
As part of the grand opening, the franchise has partnered with Delta Air Lines to give passengers a special treat. In April, passengers on Delta Air Lines domestic flights can watch the Globetrotters do their thing on Delta’s in-flight entertainment platform.
For 90 years, the Globetrotters have entertained audiences with their unique brand of basketball — but contrary to their name, the team was never based in Harlem. They didn’t actually even play in Harlem until 1968.
The Globetrotters got their start in Chicago at Wendell Phillips High School playing in the Negro American Legion League until 1927 when the team turned professional. That was the same year a promoter came on board, branding them with his name until 1930 when they became the Harlem New York Globetrotters.
That was all about marketing. The promoter, Abe Saperstein, wanted to give the impression that the all-black team of players was from the borough of Harlem, which at the time was the cultural heart of black America.
Photo Gallery: Harlem Globetrotters in Atlanta
The tricks and comedy came into play in 1939 when the team would have such huge leads over their opponents that Saperstein would give them the okay to clown around.
Each member of the Harlem Globetrotters had his own career path and his own reasons for playing with the team. Before the mid-1940s, the options were limited for black players. The NBA had not yet reached its peak popularity (there were only 11 teams) and for many talented athletes, the Globetrotters allowed them to earn a living while doing what they do best.
In 1942, Bob Karstens from Dubuque, Iowa became the first white player under contract with the Globetrotters. They didn’t sign a female player, Fatima Maddox, until 1993.
One of the current players, Alex Weekes, lives in Atlanta during the off season. He has toured with the team since 2013, and last year had the chance to perform for his hometown crowd (he had to switch touring teams to do so.)
Here’s a vid of some of the Globetrotters and their local fans, having a good time on the Atlanta Streetcar: