Globetrotters celebrated in TeamWorks’ national PBS doc “The Team that Changed the World”

Everyone knows the unparalleled on-court antics of the Harlem Globetrotters, but few today are aware of the team’s pivotal role in shattering basketball’s color barrier and transforming the sport in America and around the world.

TeamWorks Media pay tribute to the Globetrotters’ legacy with their new hour-long hi-def doc “The Team that Changed the World,” which premieres on PBS stations nationwide Feb. 24, with a local premiere at 8 p.m. on Ch. 11.

“We wanted to concentrate on a series of events from 1948 to 1951, when the Globetrotters really impacted race relations in the United States and introduced the game of basketball to the world,” said Jay Sharman, TeamWorks VP/production and executive producer of the doc.

“The Globetrotters really lived up to their name,” he said.

Sharman ran across the story in December 2003, when the Globetrotters’ 1951 basketball attendance record was finally broken. Sharman was intrigued by the Globetrotters’ record-setting game in Berlin, where they traveled with Jesse Owens to the site of his 1936 Olympic triumph.

“Here was this Jewish owner of an all-black team with Jesse Owens returning to post-Nazi Germany to help them with their healing process,” Sharman said. “It seemed like something out of a screenplay.”

The Harlem Globetrotters’ historic victory over the league champion Minneapolis Lakers

Sharman’s research led him to a bigger story about the Globetrotters’ social significance in America. Founded in Chicago in 1920 by player Tommy Brookins and owner Abe Sapperstein, the Globetrotters’ flamboyant and pioneering style of play amassed a national following while pro basketball was still segregated.

Then in 1948, on the night of Harry Truman’s galvanizing civil rights address, the Globetrotters defeated the National Basketball League champion Minneapolis Lakers at Chicago Stadium, exploding the myths that kept African Americans locked out of the game. They repeated their victory a year later, opening the door for Globetrotter Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton to become the first black NBL player when he joined the New York Knicks in 1951.

Rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy narrates “The Team that Changed the World.” TeamWorks amassed an impressive array of interviewees including Bill Cosby, Samuel L. Jackson, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama.

Last summer TeamWorks produced “Disco Demolition 25th Anniversary: The Real Story,” commemorating DJ Steve Dahl’s epochal Comiskey Park stunt.

“That was a rating bonanza for Ch. 11,” Sharman said. “They turned around and said ?what else you got?’ We were in the works on the Globetrotters piece and it seemed like a natural fit.”

Ch. 11 is the presenting station for “The Team that Changed the World.” Program director Dan Soles marketed and distributed the doc directly to PBS stations reaching nearly 90 percent of U.S. households. Ch. 11 will broadcast it in Hi-Def and standard definition formats, and it will be available in HD in other select markets.

“We felt that this is a story that will stand the test of time, so it was important to shoot on HD since that’s the way the television market is going,” Sharman said. TeamWorks shot on their two Panasonic 720P cameras and posted on their two HD edit suites.

It wasn’t until Dec. 1 that clearances were finalized for the show and TeamWorks entered production with only eight weeks until their Feb. 2 delivery date to Ch. 11. “We double-shifted our edit sessions, working seven days a week around the clock,” Sharman said.

TeamWorks Media is at 954 W. Washington, 6th floor. Call 312/829-8326 or see