Harlem Globetrotters Make a Big Ask of NBA: 'It's Time'

World-famous exhibition team petitions NBA's Adam Silver to let them into league
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2021 9:20 AM CDT
Harlem Globetrotters: We Want In, NBA
The Harlem Globetrotters face off against the Washington Generals on Feb. 16, 2015, at what was then called Xfinity Arena in Everett, Wash.   (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Jordan Stead)

Back in December, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hinted he'd be interested in expanding the league. Now, one world-famous team is vying for a potential spot. USA Today reports the Harlem Globetrotters—the exhibition team known for its jaw-dropping on-court antics and legendary players including Wilt Chamberlain, Fred "Curly" Neal, and Meadowlark "Clown Prince" Lemon—have sent an open letter to the league petitioning Silver and other NBA "powers that be" to make them the newest franchise "not now, but right now!" Their letter argues that "based on what we've already proven, we can field a team of talent on par with the pros of today, and we want the chance to do that." The request notes it was the Globetrotters—who've entertained nearly 150 million fans in more than 120 countries—who "brought basketball to the world stage," and helped draw Black players to the game.

That latter point is why the Globetrotters feel their time is due, especially since multiple Black NBA players—including Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins, and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, one of the first three African American players in the NBA—were scooped up from the Globetrotters, per NPR. Clifton joined the New York Knicks in 1950 after the Globetrotters beat the Minneapolis Lakers, at the time the league's reigning champions, in both 1948 and 1949. "If you really believe what you've been saying about social justice ... You can't just act like we don't exist anymore," the letter notes. "It's time to right the wrongs and rewrite history. It's time for the NBA to honor what the Globetrotters have done for OUR sport, both here in the US and around the globe. ... Don't get it twisted; basketball would not be what it is today without us." The NBA hasn't responded yet. (Read more Harlem Globetrotters stories.)

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