On September 12, 1995, in Vienna, Austria, the Harlem Globetrotters tip off the third game of an 11-game exhibition series in Europe against a team of retired basketball stars led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, aptly named “Kareem’s All-Stars.” Unlike the previous 8,829 games, the Globetrotters lose, 91-85—the team’s first loss since 1971. The Globetrotters’ games are usually scripted, but this game is not.
Despite being 48 years old, Abdul-Jabbar put the team on his back, scoring 34 points. Bo Kimble, a former college standout and New York Knick, scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Abdul-Jabbar and Kimble were aided by a handful of other old, former NBA standouts such as Artis Gilmore, Jo-Jo White, Nate “Tiny” Archibald and, the youngest player on the team, 40-year-old Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell.
The victory had additional significance for Abdul-Jabbar, who was no stranger to the Globetrotters. In 1969, the Globetrotters—known primarily for their on-court antics—reportedly offered him a $1 million contract to play with them after his historic collegiate career at UCLA. Abdul-Jabbar turned the deal down and went onto become the No. 1 pick of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.
After the win, Abdul-Jabbar complimented the Globetrotters, saying they were “a very good basketball team” and that “they impressed our team with their poise in this loss.”
Meanwhile, the Globetrotters, who had won the first two games of the 11-game series in Switzerland and Germany, took the loss fairly hard. “The guys are really upset …,” Reggie “Regulator” Phillips told the media. “After being part of the team for over 300 straight wins, it is a strange feeling to lose a game.” The Globetrotters defeated the All-Stars in their next “game.”
At the end of this somewhat strange series featuring basketball entertainers and NBA has-beens, Maxwell summed up the experience humorously, telling the New York Times: “You look at us after these games, we are on Tylenol, Excedrin, Advil—all kinds of painkillers, anti-inflammatories. We’re one big pharmaceutical shop. If they do this next year, they ought to look at one of those drugs companies sponsoring it. They can call it the Kareem-Harlem Globetrotters Pain Tour.”