The NBA is thinking about expanding. The likely destinations? Seattle and Las Vegas. Both make sense for a myriad of reasons. Seattle, once home to the SuperSonics, has been without an NBA franchise since 2008, and just got its first NHL team, the Kraken. Vegas, meanwhile, is a growing haven for pro sports. The Vegas Golden Knights were founded in 2017, the San Antonio Stars became the Las Vegas Aces in 2018, and, in 2020, the Raiders moved to their roomba. But there’s another destination for the NBA to mull over.
Yes, the Harlem Globetrotters would also like to be considered for a potential expansion spot.
“As an organization whose storied history is already tightly interwoven within that of the NBA, the Harlem Globetrotters are looking for a long overdue seat at the table.” Jeff Munn, executive vice president and general manager of the Harlem Globetrotters, said in a statement. “Our players were instrumental in the integration of the league dating back to 1949. We stood proudly as our players were recruited by NBA teams.”
And with a list of Globetrotter alumni that includes names like Wilt Chamberlain, he’s absolutely right.
The statement continued: “Now, after years of attracting the best Black players, it’s time the NBA recognized our contribution to the game. With the league already considering an expansion, the time has come. The Harlem Globetrotters stand ready to negotiate for a franchise.”
Yesterday, the Globetrotters wrote a letter to the NBA. In it, the team mentioned one game they played against an NBA franchise — the Minnesota Lakers in 1949. That year, an all-Black Harlem squad beat the 1949 NBA champions for the second year in a row. Months later, Earl Lloyd, a former Globetrotter, became the first Black man to play in the NBA.
“Instead of just letting us in, you took our players,” the Globetrotters wrote. “If you really believe what you’ve been saying about social justice, going back to ‘normal’ needs to look different. You can’t just 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.”
Honoring the Globetrotters’ past and giving them an expansion spot may be two separate conversations. But perhaps a Harlem NBA team accomplishes both.
The letter concluded:
“Based on what we’ve already proven, we can field a team of talent on par with the pros of today, and we want the chance to do that. As a world renowned and legendary professional basketball team, we petition Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA governors and the powers that be to grant The Original Harlem Globetrotters an NBA franchise. Not now, but right now!”
Of course, New York City already has two NBA teams. But who says the idea can’t be tossed out?
The Globetrotters have unquestionably contributed to basketball culture in the U.S. and have helped grow the game around the world. It’s past time for the NBA to give the team “a seat at the table.” And maybe it comes in the form of a franchise.