Philly’s Red Klotz, Washington Generals Founder, Dies at 93

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In this March 21, 2001, file photo, Red Klotz, 80, owner of full-time Globetrotters’ opponent the New York Nationals, smiles inside his office at his home in Margate, N.J. The basketball barnstormer who owned the Washington Generals and other teams that lost thousands of games to the Harlem Globetrotters died Monday, July 14, 2014.

South Philadelphia native Red Klotz, who founded the team that played the lovable loser foils to the Harlem Globetrotters, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 93.

Klotz attended South Philadelphia High School and Villanova. He came out of the early basketball popularity of South Philadelphia’s Jewish population, playing on and later managing the Philadelphia Sphas. He spent one year in the then-fledgling Basketball Association of America, which later became the NBA, and won a title with the Baltimore Bullets. At 5-foot-7, he’s the shortest player to ever win an NBA championship.

When owner Eddie Gottleib got a franchise (the Philadelphia Warriors) in the NBA, the Sphas eventually became a touring partner of the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1952 Klotz’s team — re-christened the Washington Generals — became the permanent touring partners of the ’Trotters. Klotz beat the Globetrotters while with the Sphas, but lost over 14,000 times while with the Generals (or any of their many names, including the Atlantic City Seagulls).

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How Flyers Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds Almost Beat the Harlem Globetrotters

From left: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Steve Mason, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek. Photo | HughE Dillon

From left: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Steve Mason, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek. Photo | HughE Dillon

The Harlem Globetrotters are from another era, a throwback to the original days of basketball, of barnstorming teams like the Original Celtics and the New York Rens. The show even feels old: The Globetrotters’ jokes are almost vaudevillian — some of them could have been ended with a giant hook pulling them off the court. It’s carnival entertainment — the circus combined with professional wrestling.

C’mon, kids! Abe Saperstein’s globe trottin’ basketball team has come into town! Only now Abe Saperstein is Herschend Family Entertainment, who acquired Harlem Globetrotters International, Inc. from Shamrock Capital Advisors in October. Herschend also owns the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, Ride the Ducks, and Dollywood.

The Globetrotters make an annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia in early March every year, hitting the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia twice yesterday. (Another Globetrotter squad was in Estero, Florida, at an arena that usually hosts the Florida Everblades — get it?) To get attention in a crowded entertainment market, the Globetrotters pull a lot of stunts: The team drafted Usain Bolt, a player ran into Dave Matthews, and two Globetrotters competed on the Amazing Race. In 2009, the team actually played on the roof of the Spectrum; the next year two players did tricks on the top of the Comcast Center.

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