Harlem Globetrotters send letter to Adam Silver asking to join NBA as expansion team

Written By Edward Sutelan
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As the NBA considers expansion, the Harlem Globetrotters are asking to be made an NBA franchise. 

In an open letter to commissioner Adam Silver, the Globetrotters explained their historical significance to the sport of basketball and said that "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," the letter read. "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!"

MORE: USA Olympic basketball roster projections

Expansion has not happened in the NBA since the then-Charlotte Bobcats — now Hornets — made it 30 teams in the NBA in 2004. And while Silver said expansion was not something that is "on the front burner," he noted that it is something the league is considering. 

In the letter, the Globetrotters explained that in 1949, the Globetrotters faced the then-BAA Champion Lakers and won for the second straight year. At the time, basketball had yet to be integrated. 

The letter went on to say that game led to the integration of the sport and that the first Black players in the NBA both came from Harlem with Nat Sweetwater Clifton being the first Black player to sign a contract and Earl Lloyd the first to play in a game. 

"While it was hard to see them go, we were proud of our young Black men for ushering in such a significant change to the game," the letter read. "We continued to pack arenas and grow the game of basketball across the globe. When the NBA struggled to draw more than a few thousand fans, we agreed to schedule doubleheaders featuring the Globetrotters. As the NBA grew, you were able to attract the best Black players, but we remember who helped the NBA get it all started."

The Globetrotters said they have also helped spread the game across the world, having played in 122 different countries. They also discussed the different elements of basketball now popular in today's game ushered in by Harlem, from the behind-the-back inside-out handle, the dunk, no-look pass, fast break, half-court jump shot and half-court hook shot. 

"Congratulations on growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry with international endeavors and huge media deals," the Globetrotters wrote in the letter. "We've kept our heads down and focused on what means the most to us - world class basketball showmanship, uniting families and spreading joy of the game."

Sportsnet reported that Las Vegas and Seattle are the two most likely destinations for an expansion.

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