Globetrotter legend dies in Redlands Bob Karstens, a local resident for 10 years, was 89 years old By EMILY JOHNSON
REDLANDS Redlands resident for more than 10 years and Harlem Globetrotter legend, Bob Karstens died Friday, Dec. 31, in Redlands. He was 89.
He is labeled as the first Caucasian player to be under contract with the "World's Greatest Basketball Show," joining the traveling basketball group in 1942. Karstens is credited with being an original creator of the group's famous "Magic Circle" pregame routine. He also developed the "Goofball," which was a gag basketball filled with off-center weights, the "yo-yo" basketball and the behind-the-back backhand shot.
Team owner and Chairman Mannie Jackson said, "The organization was deeply saddened at the news of our good friend. ... Bob was always a positive and supportive player, whose energy and creative influence can still be seen at Globetrotter games today."
The Globetrotters today are still very involved in performances and will be at Cal State San Bernardino on Jan. 21 for a performance.
Karstens was born March 11, 1915, in Davenport, Iowa, and joined the team in 1942 after famed Reece "Goose" Tatum was drafted into the Army Air Corp during World War II. A former St. Ambrose College, Davenport, Iowa, basketball player, Karstens was the Globetrotter's "showman" from 1942-43.
On June 13, 1994, he was awarded the Legends Ring for his contributions to the organization.
Even in his later years Karstens loved to play basketball. Obrey Brown, former Redlands Daily Facts Sports Editor, remembers the first time he met Karstens.
"I was covering a game at Redlands High School, and Bob was on the outdoor courts nearby shooting hook shots at half court, and making them," said Brown. Amazed that a man who appeared to be in his 70s was able to execute varying trick shots, Brown approached Karstens and learned about his history with the Globetrotters.
Son Andrew Karstens remembers his dad as an all around great guy. His favorite story about him is a story his father told him about being on the same train as Jesse Owens and a other African-American basketball players. Bob Karstens went over to the designated section that Owens was required to sit in, being an African-American in a segregated America. After talking for a while with the group of basketball players, Bob Karstens was told to get off the train by the conductor.
Andrew Karstens laughs at what his father used to tell him next.
"My father turned to Jessie Owens and said, This is a switch, now I'm getting kicked off the train for being in the wrong section!'" said Andrew Karstens. Andrew says that story is an example of the kind of life his father lead. He wasn't bound by the boundaries of segregation. Bob Karstens is in the basketball Hall of Fame, according to his son.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15, at The Church of the Nazarene in Redlands, where Karstens was a member. Cortner Chapel is handling Karstens funeral arrangements.
Karstens is survived by his wife, Pauline Karstens of Redlands, three sons and four grandchildren.