A Letter from Mark Johnson, Son of Andy Johnson
I have spent nearly 30 years gathering information about early basketball primarily between 1950 and 1960. Understanding the integration of the NBA and how it became a global brand. I found out that Abe Saperstein’s Original Harlem Globetrotters existed between 1927 and when the franchise was sold, in 1965. They were responsible for pioneering basketball all over the world starting before 1950. It was entertainment at its finest at time when bringing people together with laughter was so important.
The Pre 1960 Globetrotters were a group of men that traveled home and abroad drawing capacity & standing room only crowds. This was a time when their talents could not be fully displayed in white venues from high school, Colleges and even the professional levels.
My father was one of those men. Uncovering my father’s story, I found out that he was not only on one of the world most famous teams known, but a key part of a group of men that broke racial barriers here and especially abroad. The Trotters showed the international community that black and white players can get along and play together....unlike what was being seen in images of America around the world at that time.
He was also a part of the slow integration process within the NBA (3rd black athlete to play for the Warriors).
Stumbling upon this information while helping my father obtain his NBA pension, I not only uncovered my father’s fascinating story but those of other pioneers of that era that were so instrumental to today’s game.
Afterwards, I wrote my book, Basketball Slave, which took me on adventure I could not ever have imagined. It led me on a journey to really learn about the man I called Dad. In my research I found out why when I mentioned his name, people knew and respected who he was in the basketball community. Whether it was the great Dolph Schayes (one of the 50 greatest players in NBA History) telling me that he still has black and blue marks from him playing against my dad or one of the most well-known pioneers or Earl Lloyd (First Black to play in an NBA game) stating flatly, “He was the best.” or a fan telling me, "I watched your father as a kid and had the opportunity to meet him as an adult. He is he nicest person and it was an ultimate experience as a true fan of the game."
There aren't too many people who have not heard the name 'Harlem Globetrotters'. When they do, it usually brings some kind of fond childhood memory that has lasted throughout the years. As a basketball fan myself, I figured I would share with the world these stories and pay homage to the pioneers that paved the way. My goal is to continue my research and create learning pathways to careers for young people by introducing these stories.
Thank you for letting me share with you,