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Harlem Globetrotters continue 55-year-old rivalry with beloved loser Red Klotz in games at the Verizon and Patriot centers Saturday
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By MICHAEL ZITZ
ALEXANDRIA--At 86, Red Klotz still plays half-court basketball against guys in their 20s and 30s.
That kind of competitiveness and sheer love of the game got him through 13,000 losses to the Harlem Globetrotters with his head held high.
"It's Groundhog Day every day for those guys," Anthony Blakes, a current Globetrotter, said last week during an interview in Alexandria. He was referring to the Bill Murray film in which a man is locked in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. "But then, it's Groundhog Day every day for us, too," Blakes said.
The Globetrotters, who play games at the Verizon Center and the Patriot Center on Saturday, honored Klotz as one of their "Legends" last weekend in Philadelphia.
He's the 26th person in the team's 80-year history and the first non-Globetrotter to earn the distinction.
For the past 55 years, Klotz has put together their "Brand X" opponents in hundreds of games annually.
The Atlantic City Seagulls. The Boston Shamrocks. The New Jersey Reds. The Washington Generals. The International All-Stars. And now, the New York Nationals.
Losers all, but never bowed; talented and proud, Klotz maintained in a phone interview from his home near Atlantic City, N.J. "You always give it your best because you have pride," he said.
The partnership began in 1953, when Globetrotters owner Abe Sapperstein asked Klotz to form a team to play them on a regular basis. He had been coaching a team in Cumberland, Md., at the time.
Klotz had played college ball at Villanova and later played for the NBA's Baltimore Bullets during the 1947-48 season in which the Bullets won the championship.
Klotz once said, "Like Fred Astaire had Ginger Rogers, the Harlem Globetrotters have always had a dance partner but I've always been dancing backwards."
He has lost games in front of popes, kings and queens; been beaten on aircraft carriers, in bull rings and on soccer fields.
Klotz himself hit the game-winning shot the last time his team beat the Globetrotters. It was 1971, and he was 50 years old at the time. The Globetrotters have lost to other teams since then.
Another time he beat the 'Trotters, Klotz said, the crowd "looked at us like we killed Santa Claus."