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On this date in 1927, the Harlem Globetrotters played their first game in Hinckley, Illinois.
The team was formed a year earlier by Abe Saperstein, a white-Jewish American from Chicago who had coached semi-pro basketball in that area. A year earlier, he had taken over as coach of the Black team, the Savoy Big Five (formerly Giles Post American Legion). With an eye for the team being more successful with better marketing, he focused on its racial composition and barnstorming, renaming the team the Harlem Globetrotters. However, they had no connection to New York.
That evening in 1927, wearing red, white, and blue uniforms that their coach had sewn in his father's tailor shop, a tradition began that continues. The first starting lineup consisted of Walter “Toots” Wright, Byron “Fat” Long, Willis “Kid” Oliver, Andy Washington, and Al “Runt” Pullins. After Saperstein died in 1966, the team was sold to three Chicago businessmen for $3.7 million. In 1975, Metro Media purchased the team for 11 million. The team’s popularity declined in the 1980s when stars like Meadowlark Lemon left due to contract disputes.
In 1985, Lynette Woodward became the first female Globetrotter; a year later, Metro Media sold the team as part of a package that included the Ice Capades to International Broadcasting Corp. (IBC). In 1993, IBC entered bankruptcy, and Mannie Johnson, a former Globetrotter, bought the team.