The Harlem Globetrotters say it’s high time for the NBA to make them part of the highest professional basketball league as a franchise.
In an open letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the Harlem Globetrotters called on Silver to recognize the team’s decades of contributions to the league. “As the NBA grew, you were able to attract the best BLACK players, but we remember who helped the NBA get it all started, “the letter read.
It went on to say “You can’t act like we don’t exist anymore. 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 U.S. and around the globe.”
The team is an exhibition basketball team and, since it’s inception in 1926, has won 2,700 games and played in 123 countries. The team mentioned in it’s letter to the league it believes it’s on par with the other professional teams out there today.
Notable players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton got their start with the Globetrotters before eventually ending up in the NBA.
In 1940, the Globetrotters won their first World Championship, defeating the Chicago Bruins.
In 1948 and 1949, the Globetrotters twice defeated the world champion Minneapolis Lakers of the NBA, influencing the discussion over Black players being allowed to join the game on a professional level. Following the victories over the Lakers, Clifton became one of the first Black men to play in the NBA, signing a contract with the league when he joined the Knicks in 1950.
The NBA and its players have advocated for social justice and racial equality in recent years. But the Globetrotters said their innovation and contributions to the league — namely to the NBA’s integration — brought it to where it is now.
“Don’t get us wrong, we love what y’all have done recently and we are proud of how your players are standing up to make a difference in their communities,” the team wrote. “But don’t get it twisted Basketball would not be what it is today without us.”
For the Harlem Globetrotters to join the league, the NBA would have to approve a league expansion. In December, before the start of the pandemic-shortened season, NBA Commissioner Silver told multiple media outlets that league expansion was on the table.
“I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point, “Silver said at that time. “I’d say it’s caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion. We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic. But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”
Seattle, once home to the SuperSonics before they departed for Oklahoma City in 2008, has been reported as a top choice.
The league last expanded when the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) were added in 2004.