Abe Saperstein

Savory Big Five

3 point shot

Saperstein was the commissioner of the American Basketball League, which he founded in 1961 after repeatedly being denied an NBA expansion franchise. He also owned the Chicago Majors team in that league.[2] In an effort to differentiate the ABL from the NBA and promote it, Saperstein invented and introduced the three point shot.[3]


In the 1988 Harlem Globetrotters documentary 6 Decades of Magic, 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.[4] Saperstein sewed the team's first red, white and blue jerseys himself, presumably having learned this skill from his tailor father.[5]

Big 5 today

Life Summary

Abe Saperstein (1902-1966) founded, promoted, and coached the Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team, previously named the Savoy Big Five, for 39 years. He was born in London in 1902, moved to Chicago at the age of six, and began coaching basketball in 1925. In 1926, he started Saperstein's Harlem, New York, Globetrotters, who later became known as simply the Harlem Globetrotters. Having difficulty finding opponents, Saperstein created an entertaining comic basketball show in 1929. In 1940 the team won the World Basketball Championship and from 1943-1944 won the International Cup. Saperstein founded the American Basketball League, serving as its 1st commissioner from 1961-1962, and was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 1971. He traveled around the world as the owner and coach of the Harlem Globetrotters until his death in 1966. Saperstein provided opportunities for African American players, who were excluded by professional leagues.