Byron “Fat” Long
Byron “Fat” Long was one of the original members of the Harlem Globetrotters. He was born Thomas Byron Long on July 26, 1907. He was a member the Phillips High team of 1926, which featured three future Harlem Globetrotters, namely Long plus William “Kid” Oliver and Walter “Toots” Wright. The heavyweight team of 1926 developed ties with the segregated black schools of the South and East, notably bringing Central High from Louisville on New Year’s night. Phillips beat Central and took home the Robert S. Abbott trophy, named after the owner of the Chicago Defender, which sponsored the contest. Despite the level of talent, the Phillips team did not win any league titles, however.
When Abe Saperstein put together his original Harlem Globetrotters team in January 1929, he recruited Long to go with Walter "Toots" Wright, Al "Runt" Pullins, William "Kid" Oliver, and Andy Washington, all from Phillips High, making the first Harlem Globetrotters team an all-Phillips High alumni team. One of the first games they played was against the Hinckley Merchants, in Hinckley, Illinois, on January 21, 1929 (in the Globetrotters official history this date had been moved back to 1927).
Long was a steady player for the Harlem Globetrotters as it toured the Midwest, racking up victories against tank town teams. In the winter of 1934, however, Saperstein changed the compensation structure, from the team splitting the gate (which could go as high as $40 dollars a game) to being paid a fix sum of $7.50 per person. The Globetrotters were now Saperstein’s employees with greatly reduced compensation. Long, Pullins, and several other Globetrotters immediately quit, and Long joined a team formed by Pullins that was originally called the “Harlem Globetrotters,” in their first Midwest tour, competing directly against Saperstein’s team. The following year the team changed its name to the New York Globetrotters and then the Broadway Clowns, and eventually the Harlem Clowns.
In later years, Long did occasional coaching, such as in 1946, when he coached the Negro College All Star team against the Chicago Grenadiers, the lone African American club in the United States Professional Basketball League. Long died in April of 1964.