Philly’s Red Klotz, Washington Generals Founder, Dies at 93
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).
On January 5, 1971, Klotz hit a two-handed set-shot in the final seconds to give the Generals a 100-99 victory over the Globetrotters. He played for the Generals well into his 60s, and coached the team until 1995. The team, now known as the World All-Stars, which his family still owns, is separate from the Globetrotters organization and is generally stocked with players who played in college and don’t mind being the butt of the joke from time to time.
“Red was truly an ambassador of the sport and as much a part of the Globetrotters’ legacy as anyone ever associated with the organization,” Globetrotter CEO Kurt Schneider said in a statement. “He was a vital part of helping the Globetrotters bring smiles and introduce the game of basketball to fans worldwide. He was a legend and a global treasure. His love of the game – and his love of people – will certainly be missed.”
His jersey, No. 3, is retired by the Globetrotters. The two teams played in Philadelphia earlier this year — and even had a game on the roof of the Spectrum before the building was knocked down. In recent years, Klotz continued his showmanship. When the Globetrotters played the Generals in a basketball game on ice, he boasted: “I’ve been asking for this game for years, and I’m glad the Globetrotters have finally given in.”
Red Klotz was like an old carnival promoter. He never let up the gag. Though it didn’t throw games, his team was paid to lose every one. But Klotz kept it up, a hard-working South Philly guy who cared about his job. “The Generals made history,” he once told the Inquirer. “It had absolutely nothing to do with being the losingest team in the history of the world. We played in 117 countries. We were pioneers.”
Klotz’s biographer told the Inky he estimates Klotz’s record with the Generals was 6-15,000.
Xfinity subscribers can watch Klotz’s appearance on Seeking Solutions With Suzanne (third guest).
Everyone else can enjoy this short doc: