Who doesn’t love the Harlem Globetrotters?

With their precision shots and hilarious stunts, these phenomenal athletes are admired around the world. But there’s much more to this remarkable team than you might think.

My new picture book SWISH! THE SLAM-DUNKING, ALLEY-OOPING, HIGH-FLYING HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (illustrated by Don Tate), which releases today from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers shares the incredible history and groundbreaking achievements of the high-flying Globetrotters.

The book’s illustrator, Don Tate, and I are huge Globetrotter fans, so this project was a labor of love. And after discovering many surprising facts about the team during our research, we became even more fanatical about the Globetrotters. (Fyi – a Nerdy Book Club post shares some of our research.)

Of course, we learned more about this iconic team than we could include in the book or this post. So behold our…


1) The Globetrotters started in Chicago (my hometown!) in the 1920s. Many of those first players were from Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School.

The book trailer below includes those first players, priceless early footage of the Globetrotters, and a peek at Don Tate’s stunning illustrations!

2) The early Globetrotters packed into a Model-T and barnstormed their way across the country. They played in barns, basements, the bottom of a swimming pool, and other unlikely venues.

3) Fans cheered for the team while they were on the court, but after the game the players weren’t allowed in many restaurants or hotels.

4) Boid Buie, who joined the team in 1946, had only one arm!

5) In the 1940s professional basketball teams didn’t allow black players. So in 1948 the Globetrotters challenged the best team in the National Basketball League, the Minneapolis Lakers — and won!

6) The Trotters didn’t start wearing their signature candy striped shorts until the late 40s.

7) Two Hollywood movies, The Harlem Globetrotters and Go, Man, Go! (with Sidney Poitier), lit up the big screens in the early 1950s.

(Sidenote: In 1981, Globetrotter players appeared in The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, a comedy TV movie with the original Gilligan’s Island cast.)

8) The Globetrotters broke the color barrier in the NBA!

Actually, three Globetrotters played a part in this historic event. In 1950, Chuck Cooper was the first black player drafted into the NBA. Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton was the first to sign an NBA contract. And Earl Lloyd was the first black player to step foot on the court and play an NBA game.

9) The Globetrotters served as peacemakers around the world.

Team members met with “popes, princes, and presidents, and even sipped team with the queen of England!” In fact, the winsome players were so effective at repairing America’s relationships with other countries, the US State Department called them, Ambassadors of extraordinary goodwill.”

10) Lynette Woodard became the first female Globetrotter in 1985.

After our research ended, Don and I made another discovery while creating video presentations about SWISH! for conferences — our lack of basketball skills! (Which resulted in this short “basketball bloopers”)

Thanks for joining our slam-dunking celebration of SWISH! and the extraordinary Harlem Globetrotters, who played non-stop, give-it-all-you-got, out-to-win-it, sky’s-the-limit basketball!

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Giveaway: One person will be randomly selected from those who leave a comment on the post to win a free virtual author classroom visit (with Suzanne Slade.)

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P.S. Two great Globetrotter videos you might enjoy:

Vintage 1950s team footage

Harlem Globetrotter’s “One Take” (Incredible!)

Congrats to the winners from the Oct. 6th #20TruePBS post (notified via email) : Melissa Allen, Cathy L. Murphy, Jackie Villano, Amber Michael, Lori Dubbin, YauMei Chiang, Vickie Blankenship, and Alexis Ennis

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com


  1. What an amazing book! Can’t wait to read it. I was lucky enough to see the Globetrotters play 10 years ago- what a great subject for a children’s book.

  2. I’ve always loved the Globetrotters, but never have been lucky enough to see them in person. This book looks amazing. Can’t wait to read it.

  3. So fun! Thanks for sharing!

  4. suzanne and don, what a fun book. love these guys. congratulations.
    no need to enter me in the drawing because no school age children at home.

  5. So much fun! I have many fond memories of the Harlem Globetrotters. Congrats!

  6. Congratulations, Suzanne and Don! Who doesn’t love the Harlem Globetrotters? You’ve broken the color barrier once again for little readers of your book! You rock!!

  7. What a fun book! The illustrations and text are so lively. Congrats, Suzanne & Don!

  8. Great story and trailer! I loved it and the memories.

    I actually did see the Harlem Globetrotters play in person. They even came to gyms in rural Illinois West of Chicago. They were exciting and fun! Our good family friends included a daughter who was a successful baton twirler. She toured with the Harlem Globetrotters in the U.S. and Europe. Her twirling was part of the Harlem Globetrotters presentation! She had a great experience.

  9. This looks great! Another winner from two talented creators!!

  10. Sheri Delgado Preston

    This is so cool! I grew up hearing about the Globetrotters and saw them on Scooby-Doo:) My 13 year-old son is a basketball player. We all love the sport! Almost went to see the Globetrotters when they came to our city. Couldn’t due to price. That’s okay. I will definitely check out this book! Congrats:)

  11. What a fantastic story. Love it that you were able to include the groundbreaking NBA facts and the first female globetrotter. Thanks can’t wait to get the book.

  12. I was a kid in the 1960’s when I was taken to a Globetrotters game. Not a basketball fan, I wasn’t looking forward to it. But, wow! It was so much more than basketball. It was watching Meadowlark Lemon and the rest of his teammates displaying their amazing athletic talent. I became an instant fan! Looking forward to this book.

  13. Such a fantastic topic for a picture book! My family and I will never forget our first Globetrotters game. Congrats!

  14. I was a child when I saw the Globetrotters, and I had no context for their lives as real human beings. All I knew was that they were amazing. I’m glad that this book provides that missing context for a different generation.

  15. Oh my goodness! Ever since I laid eyes on this book, it’s been on my “to get someday” list for our school library. The Globetrotters came to my hometown when I was a child and I thought they were so cool. What a show! I hope to win this visit for my library students, or at least one class!

  16. Oh, cute video! I saw them play in Iowa and in Korea. Great book!

  17. What a great looking book! Congratulations, Suzanne and Don.

  18. I’ve always been fascinated by the Harlem Globetrotters. I think it was in the early 80s I saw them play. So entertaining!

  19. Wow! What an engaging historical book! I cannot wait to read it with my students! I remember as a child (quite some time ago) the fascination of watching the Harlem Globetrotters! Thank you, Suzanne Slade and Don Tate!

  20. I’m a big fan of the Globetrotters and loved seeing them in cameos in the 80’s and 90’s. Suzanne, this blog post was so fun and informative! i can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. It looks fantastic! Congratulations to you and Don!

  21. What a terrific book, Suzanne and Don! I have such fond memories of the Globetrotters and am excited to learn more about them! Thank you!!!

  22. Can’t wait to read this – my copy just came in the mail. I loved Suzanne Slade’s Gershwin story and am looking forward to seeing how she brings to life the motion of these amazing hoopers! And I loved Don Tate’s illustrations in Whoosh! What a great team

    • Hi Kara, So excited to hear your copy just arrived. I hope you enjoy the book! It was fun to research the Globetrotters. There was so much more to this phenomenal team than I knew. I was grateful Don shared his talents with the book. He did an incredible job capturing the action and spirit of the players.

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