Before Black Players Were Allowed To Play In The NBA, The Harlem Globetrotters Beat The NBA Champion Lakers In A Game

Photo: Harlem Globetrotters


Before Chuck Cooper, Earl Lloyd and Nat “Sweetwater’’ Clifton became the first black players ever selected in the NBA Draft in 1950, it was not allowed for black players to play in the NBA.

While Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947, basketball unfortunately remained segregated, and the Harlem Globetrotters, a black team, weren’t allowed to join any professional league.

This led to Globetrotters owner and coach Abe Saperstein and Minneapolis Lakers general manager Max Winter organizing one of the greatest events of that time. Each of the two friends believed that their respective teams was the best team in the nation.

As you can imagine, everyone wanted to see the event. 17,823 people were in a ‘more than sold out’ Chicago Stadium, in front of which people had already lined up at 5 a.m. to get tickets. It was indeed so overcrowded, that the local fire marshals almost called off the game, and had to be begged to let the event take place.

The game itself was close, but the Harlem Globetrotters were able to drain a buzzer beating game winner to win the game 61 to 59. 

One year later, the two teams would meet up for a re-match, with the Globetrotters winning again, this time 49 to 45.

What makes the win(s) even greater is the fact that the Lakers went on to become the best team in professional basketball, winning six professional basketball titles in the next seven years: 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, and 1954. 

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