After decades of earning distinction both on and off the basketball court, Dr. John L. “Jumpin’ Johnny” Kline could just rest on his laurels. The All-American and oldest living Harlem Globetrotter player is a living legend destined for more than days in a rocking chair reflecting on his past. Kline pledged to focus on securing a brighter future for other African-American professional basketball pioneers.
“The NBA would not be what it is today without the contributions of these outstanding athletes,” Kline explained. These individuals are not household names although perhaps they would be if it were not for an unwritten policy.
“The ‘two-fer’ system was practiced by a lot of white owners in the 1950s to 1960s who didn’t want to have a lot of African-Americans playing for them,” Kline explained. “It controlled the flow of African-Americans into major sports where the owners felt minorities could or would not be willing to buy large quantities of tickets.” Kline experienced the impact of this prejudice-linked policy when he tried out for the Detroit Pistons.
There are five other living African-American basketball pioneers dealing with consequences of “two-fer” policy implementation. Those seasoned athletes and the teams that turned them away are Ernie Wagner-Milwaukee Bucks, Carl Green-Philadelphia Warriors, Herman Taylor-Baltimore Bullets plus George Brown and Bob Williams-Minneapolis Lakers. They represent what Kline calls the “Soul of Basketball” featuring an all-inclusive history of the game spotlighting its often forgotten pioneers. Including himself, Kline calls them all “The Legends Six”.
“Some of the players who were my contemporaries are struggling to survive,” Kline shared. They don’t have pensions or the means to pay for their medical expenses much less keep up with the cost of living increases. As the Black Legends of Professional Basketball Founder and President, Kline has kept in touch with and offered support for needy players. He has literally kept some of them from being homeless.
It has been said that noteworthy men are often appreciated more away from their homeland. Harlem Globetrotters acted as “Goodwill Ambassadors” traveling near and far in support of domestic affairs and international diplomacy before NBA gained fame abroad. Like Negro Baseball League players, African-American basketball pioneers during the Barnstormin’ period experienced severe discrimination and prejudice with minimal pay and opportunities for improvement. “Barnstormin’ offered a way for struggling players to make extra dollars,” Kline explained.
Kline realizes he can’t correct past wrongs and change the world all by himself. He is seeking assistance from the NBA, corporations, organizations and individuals. One way to help is make a 100 percent tax deductible donation to Black Legends of Professional Basketball Foundation for “Soul of Basketball” players in need of assistance.
Other “Soul of Basketball” support options include hosting a traveling exhibit spotlighting African-American professional basketball from 1900 to 1950 and purchasing related Barnstormin’ merchandise including caps and shirts. Kline is available to continue his tradition of working hard for money by being a keynoter/Q & A session facilitator. Kline can also share insights about sure-fire lessons of his innovative Power Living Lifestyle program. For additional information, visit blacklegends.org or call 615.457.3418.