If you are a basketball fan, the Harlem Globetrotters is a name that should sound familiar. The Globetrotters are known for combining their impressive basketball skills with elements of comedy, and it is something people of all ages enjoy. Their history dates back all the way to the 1920s, from when they were the Savoy Big Five playing in the Savoy Ballroom (where acts like Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and more performed) to becoming the Harlem Globetrotters in 1929. They went from the Chicago Globetrotters to the New York Globetrotters to finally the Harlem Globetrotters, as Harlem was looked at as the center of black culture.

The Globetrotters have a long history, and in that time, they have picked up some special players. And some of them have even played in the NBA. Here are three NBA players that played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

1.) Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was dominant. And his dominance changed the game. Chamberlain has an impressive amount of accolades including a 100-point game in 1962. He was also the all-time leading scorer before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar surpassed him in 1984, and of course recently LeBron James surpassed him.

Regardless, Chamberlain changed the game, and before playing in the NBA, he spent time with the Globetrotters. Chamberlain was playing college basketball at the University of Kansas, and was even the cause of a few rule changes because of his dominance. He played well in college but after a frustrating junior year, he joined the Globetrotters for over $50,000. Chamberlain would speak fondly of his time with the Globetrotters, and even after playing with them, he would make appearances here and there. His official period as a Globetrotter ended after a year when he joined the NBA.

2.) Connie Hawkins

Connie Hawkins was a skilled player known for his athleticism. In fact his nickname was “The Hawk.”

Hawkins had an interesting career, as he attended the University of Iowa, but had controversy around his time there. In his freshman year, Hawkins was dealing with a point shaving scandal. During this time, 37 students from 22 different schools were arrested. Hawkins was mentioned during an interview of someone involved in the scandal, however Hawkins had nothing to do with the situation. He knew/knew of some of the people involved but that is as far as it went. And as a freshman (and the NCAA’s rules of freshman players not playing on varsity), he could not have had an impact on the varsity team’s results. Hawkins was expelled from Iowa despite never being arrested or indicted in the scandal, and was essentially blackballed (college and beyond).

Hawkins went on to play in the American Basketball League (ABL) which folded after a season and the Harlem Globetrotter, where he played for four years. It was also during this time he filed a $6 million lawsuit against the NBA, as he felt they unfairly banned him without any substantial evidence he was involved with the point shaving scandal. Hawkins also played for the American Basketball Association (ABA) before eventually joining the NBA. He joined after the league decided to settle the lawsuit for $1.3 million, admit Hawkins into the league and place him on the Phoenix Suns. Hawkins went on to play in the NBA for eight seasons, with most of his time in Phoenix.

Getting to the NBA was a difficult task, but Hawkins eventually got the chance.

3) Nat Clifton

Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton had quite the career. He played both basketball and baseball in high school, and went on to attend Xavier University of Louisiana (an HBCU) before serving in the US Army during World War II.

Clifton played for the New York Rens, which were an all-black traveling team, and shortly after, he joined the Globetrotters. And during the basketball offseason in 1949 he played baseball in the Negro Leagues. Clifton eventually signed with the NBA after his time with the Globetrotters gained some attention.

He went on to play in the NBA for eight seasons, and in 1957 he became an All-Star. He was the oldest player in history to be named a first time All-Star. He was 34 at the time. Years later, Clifton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and recently, it was announced a movie on his life will be released this year. So, it will be interesting to see his life on the big screen.

These players had different journeys but had one thing in common: the Globetrotters helped get them to the NBA. And as the Globetrotters continue to go strong, let’s remember those who played in the past. 

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