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Washington Generals

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Washington Generals
Washington Generals logo
Dissolved2015, Re-formed 2017
HistoryAlso known as:
  • Boston Shamrocks
  • New Jersey Reds
  • Baltimore Rockets
  • Atlantic City Seagulls
  • New York Nationals
  • International Elite
  • Global Select
  • World All-Stars
ArenaBarnstorming team
Team colorsGreen, yellow
General managerKenny Smith[1]
Head coachSam Worthen[1]
OwnershipHerschend Family Entertainment

The Washington Generals are an American basketball team who play exhibition games against the Harlem Globetrotters. The team has also played under several different aliases in their history as the Globetrotters' perennial opponents.


Old logo of the team
The Generals in action against the Globetrotters in 2019
A Globetrotter slam dunks over a Washington Generals player.

The Generals exist primarily as a part of the Harlem Globetrotters' act, effectively being stooges for the Globetrotters. While the Globetrotters play tricks and perform spectacular displays of skill for the crowd, the Generals attempt to play a "normal" game of basketball. The Generals' games involve playing genuine basketball at times, but also not interfering in the Globetrotters' tricks. Almost every game has ended in a resounding win for the Globetrotters.[2] Despite their losses, the Generals' roster consists of relatively competent players.[2] A recurring part of the act is the "guest General", where, for a short period, an invited person (usually a local celebrity) comes on court to play for the Generals.[3][4] There can exist multiple teams of Generals simultaneously, each following different touring Globetrotters teams.[1]

While the Generals are closely associated with the Globetrotters, they were, for most of their history, an independent franchise owned by their founder, Louis "Red" Klotz, who also played on the Generals.[5] In 2017 they were purchased from the Klotz family by Globetrotters' owners Herschend Entertainment and officially revived from a two-year hiatus.[6]


The Generals were created in 1952 by Louis "Red" Klotz, a former player for the Philadelphia Sphas, a former ABL team that became one of the Globetrotters' exhibition rivals. Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein had invited Klotz to create a squad to accompany his team on their tours, in part because the Sphas had beaten the Globetrotters on more than one occasion while serving as one of the Globetrotters' exhibition teams.[7] With a nod to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the team was named the Washington Generals.[8]

The Generals remained a continuous presence in the Globetrotters act from then on, but to give the illusion of variety they played under a variety of different names with changes of uniform. During the 1971–72 season, the Generals' name was alternated with the "Boston Shamrocks", "New Jersey Reds", "Baltimore Rockets", and "Atlantic City Seagulls". The team rotated between these identities for a few seasons before going back to the Generals identity full-time. In 1995 Klotz "disbanded" the Generals and formed the "New York Nationals" which again was only a nominal change.

From 1995 to 2007 the team played as the "New York Nationals" in maroon jerseys

John Ferrari, the son-in-law of Klotz, took over as general manager of the team in 1987.[9]

After a 12-year hiatus, the team returned to their Generals identity on October 9, 2007, playing against the Globetrotters at the 369th Harlem Armory. The Globetrotters won 54–50.[10] The monikers of "International Elite" and the "Global Select" were adopted prior to the 2011–12 World Tour. For the 2013–14 Harlem Globetrotters World Tour, the team took on the moniker of the "World All-Stars".

The Generals would occasionally play teams other than the Globetrotters. Among these games, which were competitive, they managed to record victories against the Taiwanese national team and a low-level Red Army team.[11]

In 2015, the Harlem Globetrotters management chose to end contractual relations with the Generals organization, resulting in the Generals ceasing operations. The Generals played their last game against the Globetrotters on August 1, 2015, in Wildwood, New Jersey.[11][9] Overall, the Generals had lost to the Globetrotters more than 16,000 times in their combined history[2] while winning a mere 3–6 games.[12][13]

From 2015 the Globetrotters' opposition was organised by their own management. In 2017, Herschend Family Entertainment, the owners of the Harlem Globetrotters, bought the Washington Generals from the Klotz family and revived them as an active team with Kenny Smith as general manager and Sam Worthen as coach.[14][1] The Generals held a tongue-in-cheek "draft" where they selected various unavailable persons including LaVar Ball and Conor McGregor.[15][16] As a reintroduction for the team, they were entered in ESPN's The Basketball Tournament 2017.[17] Despite having a rare opportunity to play serious, competitive basketball, their long losing run continued with a first round loss.[18]

Beating the Harlem Globetrotters[edit]

Figures vary as to exactly how often the Generals have beaten their rivals. Some reports say six,[12] while the team's official website reports having three victories over the Globetrotters, one each in 1954, 1958 and 1971.[13] The 1971 win is the most storied of these, and is sometimes reported as the team's sole victory.[2]

Playing as the New Jersey Reds, they won 100–99 on January 5, 1971, in Martin, Tennessee, ending their 2,495-game losing streak. Klotz credits the overtime win to a guard named Eddie Mahar, who was team captain.[19] Harlem's captain, Curly Neal, did not play in this game.[20]

While the Globetrotters were entertaining the crowd that day, they lost track of the game and the score. They found themselves down 12 points with two minutes left to go. Forced to play normal basketball, the Globetrotters rallied but could not recover.[21]

The Reds secured their victory when the 50-year-old Klotz hit the winning basket with seconds left. Then, Meadowlark Lemon missed a shot that would have given the game back to the Globetrotters. The timekeeper tried to stop the clock but could not. When the final buzzer sounded, the crowd was dumbfounded and disappointed. Klotz described the fans' reaction: "They looked at us like we killed Santa Claus."[22][5]

Some children in the stands cried after the loss.[20] The Reds celebrated by dousing themselves with orange soda instead of champagne. Lemon was furious, saying, "You lost, I didn't lose", but still visited the opposing team’s locker room to congratulate the Reds.[5]

Generals–Globetrotters transfers[edit]

Very rarely Washington Generals players have been "promoted" to the Globetrotters. Derick "Dizzy" Grant was transferred in 2010,[23] and Jonte "Too Tall" Hall made the transition in 2011.[24]

Paul Sturgess made the opposite transition. The former Globetrotter,[25] after a few seasons playing for other teams, transferred back into the setup as part of the arranged opposition.[26] The 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) Sturgess adopted the persona of "Cager", a masked adversary who adopts a villainous role.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d Aschburner, Steve (17 March 2018). "Coach of Washington Generals well-versed in notion of losing to win". NBA.com. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Sherman, Rodger (14 August 2015). "A requiem for the Washington Generals". SBNation.com. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Harlem Globetrotters at XL Center". NBC Connecticut. 21 February 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  4. ^ "The Harlem Globetrotters Tip Off". Sports Illustrated. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via SI.com.
  5. ^ a b c "An Upset That Shook The Globe". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut. March 19, 2000. Archived from the original on November 1, 2016. Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  6. ^ Rovell, Darren (25 May 2017). "Generals make comeback as Globetrotters' foe". ESPN.com. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  7. ^ Stark, Douglas (2011). The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team. Temple University Press. p. 219.
  8. ^ "Get to know the history behind the Washington Generals". Washington Generals. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  9. ^ a b Rovell, Darren (August 14, 2015). "After 63 years, Globetrotters drop rival Generals as primary opponent". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  10. ^ "FAQ Page". Harlemglobetrotters.com. The Harlem Globetrotters. Archived from the original on 2014-01-05. Retrieved 2014-01-28.
  11. ^ a b Posnanski, Joe (12 August 2015). "Losers' Lament: After decades of defeat, the Washington Generals have lost for the final time". NBC Sports. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Whitley, David (16 August 2015). "Globetrotters won't have Washington Generals to kick around anymore". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Get to know the history behind the Washington Generals". washingtongenerals.com. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  14. ^ Polacek, Scott. "Washington Generals to Play Globetrotters Once Again After Being Bought". Bleacher Report.
  15. ^ "2017 Draft Results". washingtongenerals.com. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  16. ^ Joseph, Andrew (20 June 2017). "The Washington Generals held a ridiculous draft that included LaVar Ball and Conor McGregor". For The Win. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Generals Receive At-Large Bid for TBT". washingtongenerals.com. Washington Generals.
  18. ^ "Matadors Hold Off Generals to Advance". thetournament.com. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  19. ^ "The Last Time the Globetrotters Came Up Short". Newsday. New York. February 17, 1991.
  20. ^ a b "Curly Neal says he's an athlete first". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Little Rock, Arkansas. January 7, 1990.
  21. ^ "Showtime in NBA Can Be Traced to Trotters". Sporting News. March 12, 1990.
  22. ^ Kimes, Kent (March 6, 1998). "Klotz's klutzes unfazed" (reprint). The Augusta Chronicle.
  23. ^ Friedman, Sally. "Lifelong hoop dream comes true for Harlem Globetrotter". South Jersey Local News. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  24. ^ Klingaman, Mike (23 March 2012). "Harlem Globetrotters: Hall stands tall for traveling basketball team". tribunedigital-baltimoresun. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  25. ^ Powell, Dave (5 June 2017). "Paul Sturgess: From Cheshire Phoenix to working with Johnny Depp and Jude Law". Chester Chronicle. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Harlem Globetrotters in Venice today". thelosangeleno.com. 10 December 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Cager - The Globetrotter's Biggest Nightmare". washingtongenerals.com. Retrieved 20 March 2018.

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