Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters

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Overview

Before Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Julius Erving, or Michael Jordan––before Magic Johnson and Showtime––the Harlem Globetrotters revolutionized basketball and spread the game around the world. In Spinning the Globe, author Ben Green tells the story of this extraordinary franchise and iconic American institution. We follow the Globetrotters' rise from backwoods obscurity during the harsh years of the Great Depression to become the best basketball team in the country and, by the early 1950s, the most popular ...

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Spinning the Globe

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Overview

Before Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Julius Erving, or Michael Jordan––before Magic Johnson and Showtime––the Harlem Globetrotters revolutionized basketball and spread the game around the world. In Spinning the Globe, author Ben Green tells the story of this extraordinary franchise and iconic American institution. We follow the Globetrotters' rise from backwoods obscurity during the harsh years of the Great Depression to become the best basketball team in the country and, by the early 1950s, the most popular sports franchise in the world. Green brings to life their struggles with racism and segregation, and their influence upon a nation's views about race and sport. We witness the Globetrotters' fall from grace to the brink of bankruptcy in the early 1990s, and their ultimate rebirth under Mannie Jackson today, as they once again amaze kids and families around the world. Now in paperback, this is the true and complete story of their amazing eighty years as a team, told with lyrical prose and masterful storytelling by Ben Green.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Harlem Globetrotters have lived up to their name. Since their 1927 inception, the world's most beloved team has played over 20,000 games, displaying their basketball gifts in front of tens of millions of fans in more than 100 countries. Spinning the Globe recaps the breathtaking history of one this epoch-making African-American sports franchise, along with 16 pages of photos.
Black Issues Book Review
“...an ambitious, engaging book on the history of the Globetrotters.”
Ira Berkow
Green, whose previous books include Before His Time and The Soldier of Fortune Murders, captures the drama and conflicts of this rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches story, and his descriptions of some of the important Globetrotter games (against their onetime black archrival, the New York Renaissance, and against college all-star teams) give the reader the sense of being there.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
For certain generations, the song "Sweet Georgia Brown" immediately brings to mind the Harlem Globetrotters and their on-court comedy. Long before they became the clown princes of basketball, however, the Trotters were America's most popular sports team. Green (Before His Time) traces the team's history back to its roots in Depression-era Chicago and its early barnstorming years. Fans who remember the team through their television appearances in the early 1970s are in for an education, as Green undercuts the reputation of Meadowlark Lemon, whom other Trotters openly criticize as a poor player, while celebrating legends from the '40s and '50s such as Marques Haynes and Goose Tatum. During those years, the team was already honing its gags, but the players were also regularly competing against the nation's best college players-and even beating NBA squads before the league became racially integrated. Green's straightforward but respectful approach carries over into a balanced handling of the "minstrel show" reputation that dogged the Globetrotters almost from the beginning, as well as a brief account of the team's modern revival after being bought by a former player. The overall effect of this vividly rendered history is to make readers wish they could see the Globetrotters it describes in action. 16-page b&w photo insert. Agent, Jim Rutman. (On sale May 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060555504
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/3/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 490,304
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Green is the highly acclaimed author of Before His Time (the subject of a PBS documentary), The Soldier of Fortune Murders (which sold more than 100,000 copies and was the basis for a CBS miniseries), and Finest Kind. A former Bread Loaf Fellow, Green lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, Tracie, and two daughters, Emily and Eliza. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and is on the faculty of Florida State University.

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Table of Contents

Foreword IX
Chapter 1 The Garden 1
Chapter 2 Chicago 12
Chapter 3 Abe 32
Chapter 4 Runt 51
Chapter 5 Inman 72
Chapter 6 The Rens 94
Chapter 7 Sonny 121
Chapter 8 Goose 153
Chapter 9 Marques 174
Chapter 10 The Lakers 200
Chapter 11 All-Stars 216
Chapter 12 Ambassadors 234
Chapter 13 "Freedom Now!" 253
Chapter 14 Wilt 283
Chapter 15 "Show's Over" 302
Chapter 16 Meadowlark 333
Chapter 17 Mannie 361
Epilogue: Final Circle 384
Notes on Sources 393
Acknowledgments 399
Index 403
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First Chapter

Spinning the Globe
The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters

Chapter One

The Garden

This story begins with a song.

A pure sound of joy. One person, sotto voce, whistling a simple little melody: twelve notes in all, repeating rhythmically up and down the scale. And behind the whistle, carrying the beat, a lone, mysterious percussionist -- it could be fingers snapping or rhythm sticks, but it's actually bones, a pair of flat rib bones from a cow or a hog, clacking together, driving the tune.

The song wafts across the arena where we are sitting, waiting eagerly for what we know will come.This scene could be happening in any of a hundred arenas in a hundred different towns, from a high school gym in Sheboygan or the Boilermakers Union hall in Yakima to the Cow Palace in San Francisco, but we are actually in Madison Square Garden -- the old Garden at Fiftieth Street and Eighth Avenue -- in New York City.

It could also be any year of the past seventy-five, but tonight is January 1, 1950. New Year's Day. The beginning of the postwar decade and the halfway point of the century. It's a Sunday night, just before seven P.M. Eighteen hours earlier, 750,000 people thronged Times Square to ring in the New Year, clogging the streets between Forty-second and Forty-seventh Streets with the largest crowd in local memory, attributed partly to the bearably chilly temperatures. The city -- indeed, the entire country -- is in a celebratory mood, having finally sloughed off the lingering shortages of the war years, and the economy is ramping up toward a decade of unprecedented prosperity. It was a wild, joyous New Year's Eve. Midnight revelers cheered as the white ball on the Times Tower descended down its flagpole, Manhattan nightclubs reported a brisk business, the everalert news photographers with their Speed Graphic cameras snapped the duke and duchess of Windsor dancing at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, and those seeking a more solemn beginning to the year had pilgrimaged to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where Francis Cardinal Spellman led a midnight pontifical Mass.

This evening, the Garden is packed with nearly 19,000 people, the largest crowd ever to watch a professional basketball game in the city. A standing-room-only sellout. Earlier this afternoon, there was a near riot at the box office after the standing-room-only tickets sold out in fifteen minutes and 7,000 disappointed fans were turned away; a special detail of New York's Finest had to be called out to calm the angry crowd.

Fans that come to see the New York Knicks are habitually late, often straggling in halfway through the first quarter, but this crowd was here thirty minutes early, knowing that the best part of the evening will happen before the game. It's a family crowd: Mom and Dad and the whole nuclear gaggle of kids, and three generations in some cases, with Grandma and Grandpa along for the night, and all of them scrubbed squeaky clean and dressed in their Sunday best. The men are in suits and ties, the women in the calf-length skirts that are the fashion of the day. There's an air of giddy anticipation, much as there was in Times Square last night, and a murmur of excitement ripples through the stands as everyone waits for what they know is coming.

And then it begins -- the whistle and the bones.

The lights come up and five tall, graceful men jog out onto the floor, dressed in white silk warm-up jackets that every boy in the arena covets as soon as they see them. The men are led onto the court by the two most acclaimed basketball players in the world: Marques Haynes, who does things with a basketball that no one has ever done, and Goose Tatum, the Clown Prince of Basketball, a talented and temperamental comic genius. The players are introduced one at a time, to thunderous applause, then form a circle around the foul line and start passing a ball, whipping it behind their backs, between their legs, faster and more expertly than these fans have ever seen.They roll it up one arm and down the other, spin it off their fingertips, feint one way and flick it the other, bounce it off their heads, their behinds, their chests. And the song is driving it all, that whistle and the bones.

By now, the spectators can't help themselves, it's physically impossible -- their feet are tapping. Entire families tapping in unison. Dad's spit-shined brogans, perhaps almost imperceptibly, but tapping nonetheless; Mom's black pumps, with quiet decorum; and Junior's stinking Converse All-Stars, which should have been thrown out with the trash weeks ago. All tapping. Some in the crowd are humming, too. They have no idea of the words to the song. There may not even be any words to this song, except for the only three that matter, and they sing them under their breath at the end of each line:

"Sweeeet Georgia Brown"

This song can mean only one thing: the Harlem Globetrotters* are in town and we are going to have the time of our lives. The song is like a Rorschach test for American culture. There is no two-headed dog in the picture, no repressed sexual memories, no oedipal urges. There is only one message: the Harlem Globetrotters make people happy.

The crowd is mesmerized, their eyes riveted on the court, as the players weave a spell of enchantment over the Garden. The one person not watching the Magic Circle is the team's owner, Abe Saperstein, who is standing in front of the Globetrotters' bench and, by force of habit, scanning the stands, expertly counting the house. It is a skill honed over twenty-five years -- a necessity in leaner days as protection against disreputable promoters and vanishing gate receipts, but even now, when he no longer has to worry about the gate, a habit that refuses to die ...

Spinning the Globe
The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters
. Copyright © by Ben Green. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    Help fole

    I like it and i like the part when he jump off the car

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    CARRRRR

    HE JUMPED OFF THE CARRRR??

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2013

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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