The Globetrotters preliminary formation as a competitive group of athletes evolved from the south side of Chicago in the 1920's. From the original group of mostly Wendell Phillips High School students and basketball enthusiasts of the surrounding area, they were first introduced as the Chicago Globetrotters. Shortly afterwards the team relocated to what was then the hub of African-American culture, a portion of the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. The team adopted Harlem as their home base, and was then officially referred to as the New York Harlem Globetrotters. An original true contender in the competitive (pre-National Basketball Association) national basketball scene, the Globetrotters participated and won the 1940 World Professional Basketball Tournament.
The team became somewhat shadowed by the 1946 birth of the NBA. They began to act creatively, slowly working in comic, juggling, and skilled coordination and handling routines into their performances. It was from there that they moved away from competitive basketball for a sustained period of time and aired more on the side of exhibition and entertainment, featuring a combination of comedy and theater with remarkable athleticism, which has become the backbone of the professional team over their historical path through almost a century of competition and entertainment.
The team ventured back to competitive basketball in the early 1990's but continued to play as an exhibition team as well. They have played well over 20,000 games in over one hundred countries over the course of their career and continue to do so today.