Abe Saperstein

Abe Saperstein

Abe Saperstein
Saperstein, circa 1950s
Born (1902-07-04)July 4, 1902
London, England
Died May 15, 1966(1966-05-15) (aged 63)
Occupation basketball executive
Known for principal owner of the Harlem Globetrotters
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 owner and coach of the Savoy Big Five, which later became the Harlem Globetrotters. He was born in London, England to a Jewish family.[1]

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 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]

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.[1] In 1979, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[6] He played baseball, basketball, and ran track at Lake View High School. He played as a guard for the Chicago Reds.

He was buried in the Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois near Chicago.


  1. ^ a b "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame - Hall of Famers: Abraham M. "Abe" Saperstein, Enshrined 1971". Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  2. ^ Association for Professional Basketball Research American Basketball League page
  3. ^ Crowe, Jerry. "How Basketball Became Three Dimensional". LA Times. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "Harlem Globetrotters: Six Decades of Magic 1988 (Not Rated)". Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  5. ^ http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/harlem-globetrotters-play-their-first-game
  6. ^ "Abe Saperstein". Retrieved 2009-10-09.