Red Klotz, loser of thousands of games to the Harlem Globetrotters, dies at 93

Red Klotz, who owned, coached and played for a number of teams that toured with and lost to the Harlem Globetrotters — most famously the Washington Generals — died Saturday in his sleep in Margate, N.J., the Press of Atlantic City reported. He was 93.

Klotz was a prep basketball standout in Philadelphia, twice being named that city’s high school player of the year before going on to play at Villanova. He was on the Baltimore Bullets’ 1947-48 NBA championship team. At 5 feet 7, he is tied with six others as the third-shortest NBA player ever, and was the shortest player ever to be on an NBA championship team.

In 1952, Globetrotters owner Gabe Abe Saperstein asked if Klotz would form a team to compete against the Globetrotters on a regular basis. The Washington Generals, Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds, New York Nationals, International Elite, Global Select and World All-Stars would go on to lose tens of thousands of games to the Globetrotters, on six continents and more than 100 countries.

Sportswriter Joe Posnanski wrote lovingly about Klotz and his perennially losing team:

They have lost under water, on ice, on cement, on wood, on grass, on mud and on sawdust. Once, in a sawdust game in Germany, Red Klotz stole the ball from Wilt Chamberlain. “You’re in my country now, Wilt,” he cackled as he dribbled away. Next thing he knew, he was on the ground with Wilt Chamberlain’s giant foot on his chest.

“Now,” Wilt said with that big grin on his face, “you’re in MY country, Red.”

Klotz himself was responsible for the Globetrotters’ last recognized loss, hitting a last-second shot in 1971 at age 51 while player-coach of the New Jersey Reds. He played against the Globetrotters until he was 68, and still played pickup games until a few years before his death.

“In between the scripted parts is real basketball,” Tim Kelly, author of “The Legend of Red Klotz,” told the Press of Atlantic City in January. “His challenge is to make his team look like it belongs on the same floor with them and actually pushes them to play well, so they have to play almost a flawless game. These guys, the Generals, are considered these buffoons, who always lose, but when you watch them play, they’re doing fundamentally everything technically precise. They can all shoot. They all know how to hit the open man. They don’t turn the ball over. They can’t afford mistakes because they have limited times that they even have the ball, and they have to keep it close.”

In 2011, Klotz became the first non-Globetrotter and sixth person overall to have his number retired by the team, joining joining Curly Neal (No. 22), Goose Tatum (No. 50), Marques Haynes (No. 20), Meadowlark Lemon (No. 36), and Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13)

“The Harlem Globetrotters organization is extremely saddened by the passing of Red Klotz, and our deepest sympathies go out to his entire family,” Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider said in a statement. “Red was truly an ambassador of the sport and as much a part of the Globetrotters’ legacy as anyone ever associated with the organization. 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.”

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