The Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals will no longer be arch-rivals: After 63 years of being the Globetrotters’ whipping boys, the Generals and the Globetrotters are parting ways, MSN is reporting.
The Globetrotters’ brand of basketball — which is about one-quarter gameplay and about three-quarters silly tricks like pantsing your an opponent or hiding a ball in a shirt — is what packs in the crowds. But you can’t play a basketball game without an opponent, and for the past six decades, that opponent has been the Washington Generals.
Former Globetrotters player and current coach Sweet Lou Dunbar issued a statement via ESPN.
“All great rivalries come to an end, and as we get set to celebrate our 90th anniversary, we are excited to take on a new opponent. We are looking forward to building a new great rivalry as we entertain families worldwide for years.”
The Washington Generals came about in 1953, when Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein approached NBA coach Red Klotz and asked him to build a team that would serve as the Globetrotters’ regular opponents as they toured around the world. Though they always tried their best to win — even though the odds were stacked against them (after all, the refs were on the Globetrotters’ payroll) — the Generals lost, consistently. In fact, most recent Generals owner John Ferrari estimates the number of Generals losses in the past six decades is around 16,000. The number of wins: three.
One win came against the Taiwanese National Team and another against the Russian Army Team.
And once — just once — one glorious night in 1971, in Martin, Tennessee, the Washington Generals beat the Harlem Globetrotters, 100-99. Sports Grid explains how it went down.
“Around 20 percent to 30 percent of a Generals/Globetrotters game is ‘real basketball.’ However, it’s that other 70 percent that has almost always guaranteed the [Globetrotters] the victory. The formula… stacks the deck enough against the Generals that winning is virtually impossible. Thus, the fans get what they want at the end of the night, the Harlem Globetrotters defeating their opponent. But that night, the formula was off.”
Red Klotz would later famously say that defeating the Globetrotters was “like shooting Santa Claus.”
The Globetrotters did not give an official reason for their breakup with the Generals, although MSN speculates that it may be financial.
“Or, more likely, an ever-dwindling fanbase has. There was a time when the Globies were bigger than any NBA team, but you won’t find them hanging out with Scooby-Doo on Saturday mornings these days.”
As of this post, the Harlem Globetrotters have not announced who will take over for the Washington Generals as their regular opponents.
[Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Ferenc Szelepcsenyi]