Abe Saperstein

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Abe Saperstein
Abe Saperstein.jpeg
Saperstein, circa 1950s
Born (1902-07-04)July 4, 1902
London, England
Died May 15, 1966(1966-05-15) (aged 63)
Occupation Businessman; basketball executive
Known for Principal owner of the Harlem Globetrotters and Chicago Majors basketball teams
Commissioner of the American Basketball League
Awards elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971

Abraham M. Saperstein (July 4, 1902 – March 15, 1966) was an American businessman. He was the owner and coach of the Harlem Globetrotters (originally named the Savoy Big Five).[1]

Early life[edit]

Saperstein was born in London, England, to a Jewish family.[2] The family moved to the US when he was about four years old.[3]

He played baseball, basketball, and ran track for Lake View High School.[3] His coach remarked on a radio program that Saperstein was an extraordinary athlete.[3]


Saperstein played as a guard for the Chicago Reds basketball team.

He was the commissioner of the American Basketball League (ABL), which he founded in 1961 after repeatedly being denied an National Basketball League (NBA) expansion franchise. He also owned the Chicago Majors team in the ABL.[1] In an effort to differentiate the ABL from the NBA and promote it, Saperstein introduced the three-point shot.[4]

In the Harlem Globetrotters documentary film 6 Decades of Magic (1988), it was noted that Saperstein chose "Harlem" to indicate that the players were African-American, even though they were actually from Chicago, and the "Globetrotters" moniker to make it seem as though the team had traveled all around the world.[5][6] Saperstein sewed the team's first red, white and blue jerseys himself, presumably having learned this skill from his tailor father.[7]

Saperstein, whose 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) stature may render him as Basketball Hall of Fame's shortest member, was elected to the Hall in 1971.[2] In 1979, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Saperstein and his wife had two children, a son and a daughter, and his family often traveled with him and the Globetrotters.[3]

He was buried in the Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois, near Chicago. In 1966, after his death, the Globetrotters were sold and later moved to New York City.


  1. ^ a b Bradley, Robert. "History of the American Basketball League". contributors: Steve Dimitry, Roger Meyer, Dick Pfander. The Association for Professional Basketball Research. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame - Hall of Famers: Abraham M. "Abe" Saperstein, Enshrined 1971". HoopHall.com. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d Saperstein, Abe (1956). Spotlight: Abe Saperstein. Sports Scrapbook radio program. Jack Drees. 
  4. ^ Crowe, Jerry. "How Basketball Became Three Dimensional". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Harlem Globetrotters: Six Decades of Magic 1988 (Not Rated)". HollywoodVideo.com. Retrieved 2009-10-09. [dead link]
  6. ^ "From Riots to Renaissance: Harlem Globetrotters". WTTW.com. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  7. ^ "January 7: This Day In History: 1927 — Harlem Globetrotters play their first game". History.com. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Abe Saperstein". JewishSports.net. Retrieved 2009-10-09.