Up Front: SPORTS BIZ
REINVENTING THE GLOBETROTTERS
THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS are making a comeback with the help of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The 69-year-old team, known for its courtside clowning and jazzy moves, has overhauled its format: To rebuild attendance, they now play serious basketball.
Their old foes, the hapless Washington Generals, used to get well-scripted drubbings. For the Globetrotters' current European tour, the 7-foot-2 Jabbar, who retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989, is leading a new opposition team of other former stars, such as Jo Jo White.
The Globetrotters won their first game 91-90 in Zurich Sept. 8 and drew 45,000. They say they will pay Jabbar up to $500,000 for the European tour, ending in London Oct. 1.
Jabbar, 48, was enlisted by former Globetrotter Mannie Jackson, who bought the flagging team in late 1993 from International Broadcasting, then in bankruptcy court. Under Jackson, the team's yearly attendance surged 30%, to 2 million. Before, revenue was weak, with attendance down two-thirds from the early 1980s. One reason: NBA play has gotten a lot more showy and Globetrotter-like.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI