From the Land of Band Box Records

Great Moments in Colorado Basketball

April 25, 2019

The Famed Globetrotters and the Boys From Joes!

…. over the years have often visited the Mile High State – I was sorting through 45’s that are related to sports figures and came across these two – the Meadowlark Lemon one coming from 1966.

The Harlem Globetrotters began as a serious basketball team – touring – playing and often defeating white professional teams.  Back during the 1933/1934 basketball season, the famed team had just finished playing an exhibition in Denver.

During their stay it came to their attention that there was a very small community out in Colorado’s eastern plains who had a few years back won not only the Colorado State High School basketball title but had proceeded to go to the annual National high school tournament where they surprised the nation with a third place finish much playing large high schools along the way including Delaware’s champs, a team from South Dakota who had qualified six times for the nationals, then the Michigan champs from Louisiana.

Joe’s was not an affluent town and the 10 team members all sported uniforms sewn by their mothers.  In fact, Joes’ in 1929 didn’t even have a gym to play in and so practiced outside on a cinder surface.  The boys were all from farms and would jog to school early in the morning in order to practice before school began.  Their coach, Richard Lane Sullivan, was a teacher with no knowledge of the game – He sent away for a handbook on how to coach basketball and it was all he needed/

The Sleepy Town of Joes – circa 1920’s

At one point during their amazing run of victories – Joes was invited to play the mighty East High Angels in Denver in a State playoff game.  The Joes’ team was comprised of ten players which represented half of all the boys enrolled at Joes’ High School.  When they arrived at the East gym – the Angels were warming up at one end of them gym. The Joes players were in awe of the fancy uniforms being sported by the Angels – and so elected to sit along the side line in order to watch the Angels.

East was an elite among Denver high schools.  The Angels were well-aware of Joes and their accomplishments but took them a bit too lightly thinking such a small school could not possibly compete anywhere in Denver.   Joes took the Angels down 34 to 23 winning a slot in the State championships.

Joes 1927 State Champs – The First of Three in a Row

The team couldn’t afford the bus fare to the national tournament in Chicago and so played an exhibition game against the University of Colorado Buffalo’s from Boulder, Colorado.  Joes was given little chance of winning the exhibition.  The game took place at the Denver Auditorium Arena.  The game was a sellout – and was the largest crowd to that point in time to watch a basketball game at any level in Colorado.  The Boys from Joes prevailed after a tough battle – 39-32 and the donations poured in to send the team to Chicago.

With those three wins under their belt, Joes took on Oklahoma’s champions from Oklahoma City – Joes streak came to an end 29-23.  They rebounded the next night taking on a school 100 times their size from Jackson, Michigan.  The Boys from Joes prevailed 21-17!

Joes in Chicago – 3rd in the Nation

So fast forward to 1933 – and the Globetrotters. The Trotters thought it would be great publicity to travel to the tiny rural town – have some fun – tease the crowd and move on to their next match.

Image result for first harlem globetrotter team

Early Trotters

The entire community around the eastern Colorado farm town turned out.  The Globe Trotters went into their usual antics but quickly abandoned the strategy when the Joe’s team would not be drawn in – instead playing their patented style of defense.  The Joes team had earlier toured the Colorado front range playing all the colleges and universities along the way – defeating them all.

In 1929 the Globetrotters lost two games total – and one of them was to the boy’s from Joes!

My long-time basketball friend’s mother, Nell Probst, researched and wrote “Boys from Joes – A Colorado Basketball Legend” – It is a fun-filled read. Get a copy and enjoy

Eastern Colorado History-Boys from Joes-Basketball Legend-The Best Do Win-Sports


  1. great story!

  2. What an amazing story. Is the town of Joes still there?

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