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A Look at Harlem Globetrotters Uniforms

As I’m sure you all know by now, Meadowlark Lemon passed away earlier this week, which makes this a good time to look at the rich topic of Harlem Globetrotters uniforms.

I was growing up on Long Island in the 1970s, when the Globetrotters were particularly popular. They had a Saturday-morning cartoon show (yes, I watched) and were frequently shown on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I saw them twice during this period, both times at the Nassau Coliseum. Lemon and Curly Neal were the top ’Trotters in those days, and to many of us they will always represent the “real” ’Trotters, even though the team actually dates back to the 1920s.

Similarly, the uniforms from the Lemon/Neal period, as modeled above by Lemon in a Burger King ad, will always be what I think of as the “real” Globetrotters uniforms — the blue jersey with the vertically arched “Harlem” and the four stars, the candy-striped shorts, the striped tube socks.

But of course the ’Trotters have worn lots of other designs over the years. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, for example, the jerseys had six stars, instead of four, with no number on the front (click to enlarge):

Here’s a closer look at one of the six-star jerseys, complete with a globe on the back:

We tend to think of the Globetrotters wearing blue, but here’s a white version of the six-star jersey (click to enlarge):

If we look back a bit more, we can see an earlier version that formed the genesis of the classic design:

But the Globetrotters didn’t always have vertically arched lettering. At one point they went with a script — and again, here we see white jerseys (click to enlarge):

And here’s yet another white jersey, with an even earlier design. I really like this one — wish we could see it in color (click to enlarge):

Now let’s look at more recent designs. Unfortunately, these haven’t been so hot. Here’s what Lemon was wearing at the end of his Globetrotter career in 1993 — ugh:

And I’m not sure which year this one is from, but let’s hope it was only worn for a few months:

And what do the Globetrotters wear now? Something similar to the classic 1970s look (click to enlarge):

Finally, let’s wrap up with a few pregame shooting shirts, all from the classic era:

As it happens, reader Marc Swanson saw the Globetrotters play on Monday evening in Cleveland and reports that they wore throwbacks in the first half (click to enlarge):

That throwback was created to mark the Globetrotters’ 90th anniversary. It will be worn for the first half of all their games in 2016, with the team switching to their regular uniforms for the second half. I’ll have more info on this in an ESPN piece next week.

That’s it. RIP, Meadowlark.

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Leafs/ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, the results of my Maple Leafs redesign contest are in. Get the full scoop here.

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Raffle update: All of the year-end raffle prizes have now shipped out. So if you were one of the winners, watch yer mailbox.

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PermaRec update: The business card shown above was salvaged from a decades-old Rolodex used at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the atomic bomb was developed. It’s one of 150 very cool-looking old Rolodex cards featured in a sensational new book. Get the full story over on Permanent Record.

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Gromm•It update: Grommets in nuts? That’s nuts! More photos over on Gromm•It.

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The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

NFL News: Multiple readers sent this in, but Nolan Jones was first: Bengals QB AJ McCarron wore a Nike sleeve and an Under Armour glove on Monday Night. … Poorly maintained fields, and the new prevalence of fields using synthetic turf, may contribute to the rise in concussions. … An Eagles player in the late 1970s/early 1980s had a seriously rugged facemask. ”¦ According to a new book by an anonymous NFL lineman, players routinely urinate in their pants during games as a macho gesture of commitment (from Tommy Turner).

College Football News: Here’s a good view of Clemson’s helmet with NCAA Playoff logo sticker on the back (from Phil). … Someone created a ridiculous Texas A&M uniform concept for the Music City Bowl (from Alex Kite). … Speaking of that bowl, Louisville will wear all-red against the Aggies. … The Alamo Bowl will feature some unique end zone patterns for Oregon and TCU. … An interesting penalty was called in the Independence Bowl on Saturday. No photos, but Andrew Cosentino explains: “Tulsa’s long snapper Reymundo Higuera (No. 18) was hurt, so their back-up had to come in for a PAT attempt. The new snapper was Jesse Brubaker (No. 8). However, their holder, Joseph Calcagni, also wears No. 8. Tulsa was subsequently penalized for illegal participation since two players were simultaneously wearing No. 8. When they re-attempted the PAT, they broughy in Dalton Parks (No. 26) to be the temporary holder. On their next PAT attempt, Calcagni switched his jersey to No. 12 and resumed his normal holding duties.”

Hockey News: In 1971, the Jersey Devils of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) held a “Uniform Night” where spectators wearing a uniform of any sort were admitted for a discount. Very blue collar. … The Los Angeles Kings’ online shop is mistakenly (I assume) selling a Sacramento Kings wristband (from Chris Bisbee). … Goalie Ben Scrivens was recently traded from Edmonton to Montreal. In his first game with the Canadiens last night, he apparently wore some of his Oilers equipment. “Looks like Scrivens did a decent job of changing the orange to red,” says Mike Engle. “Going from Edmonton to Montreal, the blue is shared and the iconography is still there (oil drop), but not as much clashing as there could have been. Note that the stick still has orange though. Also, his pads are inscribed ‘The Professor.'” … Good looks here at the Lake Erie Monsters Cavaliers-themed alts. … Wild RW Nino Niederreiter wore a hoodie underneath his jersey during an outdoor practice.

NBA News: The Knicks wore their 1950s throwbacks last night. … The other night against the Spurs, T-Wolves F Andrew Wiggins lost his shoe on defense, so teammate Karl-Anthony Towns picked it up and held it during the rest of the possession. … Wizards owner Ted Leonsis owns a cool Bullets bucket hat (from Andrew Hoenig). … Raptors G Kyle Lowry was on NBA analyst Zach Lowe’s podcast yesterday, and he and Lowe talked about the Raptors’ new uniforms (about 35 minutes in). Not sure if we knew this, but Lowry says that he and teammate DeMar DeRozan had input on the new colors and uniforms this offseason. The team’s original plan was to switch to an entirely black-and-gold color scheme (not just for one of the alternates), but DeRozan convinced team officials to keep red and white. … The Hornets unveiled the name, colors, and logo of their new D-League team, the Greensboro Swarm (from Alan Filipczak). … This image comparing video game graphics between Kobe Bryant’s rookie season (1996-97) and this season made the rounds on Reddit yesterday.

Grab Bag: The English soccer club Leicester has a Northwestern-striped mow pattern on its pitch (from Paul Kennedy). … A new anti-concussion collar draws inspiration from woodpeckers, an animal that can certainly withstand rapid and constant violent head movements (from Alex Sinclair). … New logo for the Verizon IndyCar Series. … David Firestone ranked all of the NASCAR Sprint Cup paint schemes. … Here’s a breakdown of which athletic shoe brands were the most popular on Instagram this year (from Mike Weston). … More year-end logo round-ups, with rankings of the best and worst corporate logo changes of 2015.

Comments (41)

    “According new book by an anonymous NFL lineman”
    “Also also, his pads are inscribed ‘The Professor.'”

    I remember seeing the Globetrotters and Meadowlark when I was a kid in the 70s, at the Richfield Colosseum. I must have been about 7, so the memories are a bit fuzzy.

    I think the “warm up” act was donkey basketball (for example):


    LOVE the socks on the 2016 first half HG throwbacks. Would love to pick up a pair or two of those!

    The Globetrotters were a “Must See” back in the 70’s. Back when there wasn’t the (over)saturation of sports, etc. on TV.

    Good clean fun (just ask the referee!).

    I have to say, that is how you give a d-league team it’s own identity! Chicago can actually learn something from there

    by giving them a design that looked like it was rejected by your team and a name that sounds like it belongs in the WNBA?

    Actually I believe it was just this year they folded up. What amazed me was I always thought the Generals were merely a bogus team owned by the Globetrotters to beat on, but from what I’ve heard that was wrong, they were actually their own organization. Wild.

    Correct. The Generals were decomissioned in April.
    RIP Meadowlark, and RIP Generals. It’ll never be the same without the two of you.

    One thing I didn’t know was that in the 1971-1972 season the team alternated between the Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds, Baltimore Rockets and Atlantic City Seagulls. Same players, but different uniforms. It was while wearing the New Jersey Reds unis they beat the Globetrotters.

    The team has also played as the New York Nationals, International Elite, Global Select and World All-Stars. The team was originally the Philadelphia Sphas. (Sphas was taken from the acronym for South Philadelphia Hebrew Association.)

    Aha, that finally explains a memory I have of going to the arena to buy tickets (somewhere during that time) with my Dad (I was about 9) and being excited because I thought that the Celtics were playing the Globetrotters.

    Note: they were not.

    During their 2012 Cup run, the LA media routinely replaced the LA Kings logo (and mascot) with the Sacramento Kings logo (and mascot). It became so frequent it felt like a running joke.

    Maybe this is a nod to the whole wacky thing.

    When the Kings were rumored to become the Anaheim Royals, I was looking forward to their rebrand. The overlap between the NBA Kings and NHL Kings makes me uncomfortable.

    So now I recognize that one set of stirrups on your mantelpiece that I thought at first was the St. Louis Blues. First off, I love the vertical arching of “Harlem”, elegant and detailed. But the script “Harlem” is a revelation. And while the saturation of blingy teams might have a numbing effect before long, I wish more uniforms borrowed from the Globetrotters. Great nickname too; rakish, without punking the American Indians.

    The Globetrotters wore their “real” uniforms in 1981 when they visited Gilligan’s Island. And Gilligan himself link, as he joined the team in order to help them defeat a team of robots. (Note Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn in the background.)

    Wow. This takes me back. Like Paul, I too saw the GTs at the Coliseum in the 70s as a kid, and that of course included Meadowlark and Curly et al. Wonder if we were at the same set of games? Didn’t watch the tv show, but was more than familiar with them. And I also have a pair of GT stirrups.

    Saw them one last time in the late 90s with my then-wife, at the Coliseum (we took her dad for his b-day), and they were not quite as I remembered. Sure the bucket of water/paper trick was still in play, as were the ball tricks, but it wasn’t what I had remembered as a kid. What struck me the last time (though it certainly could have happened in the 70s as well), was for about 2/3rds of the “game” the GT’s clowned around and did tricks and such; the remaining 1/3 was actually straight basketball, and the team (not the Generals for some reason) held their own, but of course the Trotters had such a huge lead they weren’t going to be caught. With about 5 minutes left, the trick play resumed and of course, the GTs won. I was surprised they didn’t play fake hoops for the whole game.

    My pop would tell me stories of the early ‘trotters actually playing straight hoops against some NBA teams and coming close to winning or winning, that’s how good they were.

    Thanks for today’s lede, PL — brings me back!

    The Globetrotters defeated the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers on a buzzer-beater in 1948. They were the real deal at that time – and were for several more years before the NBA’s integration turned them into an entertainment vehicle.

    When I was a kid I remember seeing the Raider/Eagle Superbowl highlights and seeing #85 (I think his last name was Young) with that mask…. I thought it was the coolest. I recorded it on the old Betamax so I could pause it and look at it closer. I think it was to protect a broken jaw. When they run the Superbowl highlight marathon every year I still watch that particular one just to see that mask…. helmet nerd, that’s me :)

    #85 for the Eagles was actually WR Charlie Smith, who did suffer a broken jaw before the Super Bowl. His protective facemask was quite a work of art. I’ve always wondered who fashioned it as it seems to be the work of several facemasks welded together. This is a blooper clip somewhere of him trying to do an interview during Super Bowl week with his jaw wired shut.

    I saw this realtime and couldn’t quite believe it until Deadspin confirmed: link to playing in a FBS bowl.

    Also, “A Globetrotter always saves the good algebra for the final minutes.”

    The picture of Meadowlark (RIP) illustrates very well in my opinion that a ‘busy’ uniform can also be great looking.
    Props to whoever designed it, well done.


    Then there’s the 1997 (the year Magic Johnson signed with them) link

    That other one, according to this website calls it a 1994, but in the description it was game worn in 1993.


    Apparently that photo of Meadowlark (RIP) was from a game on Feb.13,1993, at New York’s Madison Square Garden. — Taken from the description of that same site.

    I noticed the Jersey Devils played in the Cherry Hill Arena, which was possibly the worst arena to ever host professional hockey (in the WHA). No showers in the visitors dressing room so they had to get dressed in the hotel, and it apparently had a rather pronounced slope to the ice.

    Tell you what, both uniforms on that ’93 photo of Meadowlark get an I’d Wear That award. And I normally don’t give those out to uniforms from that decade.

    Here’s another look at the Generals jersey.

    When I was a little kid I thought the Globetrotters were so good that they couldn’t play in the NBA. In 1977 I saw them when they came to the Capital Centre in Maryland. I was sitting in the front row on the floor, when they did the water in the bucket routine a kid sitting two seats to my left got the bucket of shredded paper in the face, just a fun time. Thanks Meadowlark.

    With respect to the footballer, Mark Schlereth talked about how nasty linemen could be, like urinating while out in the field, or playing to the point of vomiting, like McNabb in the big game. He said many players did this, because, what, you’re going to run off the field for a bathroom break?

    He also felt God preordained and bestowed favor upon the team Mr. Schlereth was currently playing for; I believe he was interviewed on this prior to the SB with Green Bay in ’97.

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