Local author’s book reshapes Klotz legend as basketball missionary/pioneer

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Klotz book Tim Kelly's Note: Basketball legend and longtime Margate resident Red Klotz died Saturday. Here's a story we ran late last year marking the release of local author Tim Kelly's book about Red.

Louis “Red” Klotz established his legacy as a laughable but lovable basketball "loser," so much so that his name became a cliché for sports anchors and political commentators looking to hang a label on the character of perennial defeat.

But a new book by Tim Kelly recasts the longtime Margate resident as one of sports’ biggest winners: a well-traveled basketball pioneer who broke new ground and established the game worldwide.

“The Legend of Red Klotz,” published by Margate-based Comteq Publishing, is a six-year labor of love for Ocean City resident Kelly, who first met Klotz about 10 years ago at a Harlem Globetrotters game at Richard Stockton College, where Kelly served as a public relations official.

“I wanted to establish his pedigree in the game,” says Kelly, who has 40 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines and websites. “I think it’s a farce that he’s not in the Hall of Fame. He’s done as much for the game as any of those early basketball pioneers.”

From the moment he met Klotz and his family, including his wife of 75 years, Gloria, Kelly knew it was a story that had to be told.

Kelly Bill LeConey/Local author Tim Kelly of Ocean City “I was just always fascinated by their role,” Kelly says of Klotz’s perennial losers, the Washington Generals. “They spotted the Globetrotters 20 points a game, just off the show plays. But they had to hit their shots and take advantage of their possessions to keep it close, and they had to play fundamentally sound basketball.

“We just kind of hit it off from a basketball standpoint. We shared the same vision for where the game had been, and where it is headed.”

As founder, owner, coach, tour manager, and star player, Red Klotz has played or coached in excess of 14,000 professional basketball games in more than 100 countries during a career spanning parts of eight decades.

“Long before the NBA was bragging about its globalization,” Kelly writes in the book, “Red Klotz was the most prolific foot solider in actually laying the foundation. The NBA would not be comprised of 20 percent foreign players, nor would it have such strong international appeal, were it not for the groundbreaking work of the Globetrotters and Red’s team, the Washington Generals.”

Red Klotz lost more basketball games than any man who ever lived. He lost to the Globetrotters thousands upon thousands of times, getting his shorts pulled down and buckets of confetti thrown in his face nearly every time, and falling for that hidden ball trick time and time again.

He lost basketball games in all sorts of places in all sorts of countries all over the world. He lost game inside and outside, on dirt and concrete, on sand and ice, on a battleship and in a jail.

Klotzold Courtesy of Comteq Publishing/Red Klotz's favorite publicity photo, from the late 1950s. But for a guy who has become a cliche for the lovable loser, it is easy to forget he once played for an NBA champion: the 1947-48 Baltimore Bullets, who won the fledgling league's second title. At 5’7” Red is still the shortest player to win an NBA championship.

It’s also easy to forget that Klotz actually beat the Globetrotters twice, first in 1962 (in a somewhat disputed result). Then, in 1971, Klotz's patented two-handed set shot with three seconds left in overtime gave the Generals (playing under the moniker of the “New Jersey Reds”) a 100-99 upset of the Trotters in Martin, Tenn., ending their 2,495-game winning streak.

Despite a 42-year losing streak since that surprising upset, Red Klotz is a winner. And Kelly’s book traces the unlikely journey of the game's most-traveled man: from a game played in Germany on a court laid down over beer barrels, to a Grecian ampitheater that was the scene of Hitler’s notorious Nazi speeches (an ironic site for a game pitting a team owned by a second-generation Russian Jewish guy against a team of African-Americans owned by another Jewish guy, Abe Saperstein).

There were countless games played in Europe where the Globetrotters were treated like kings, staying in the best luxury hotels, only to return to this country to play in the deep South and not be able to stay in the same hotels or get served in the same restaurants as the Generals because of racial discrimination.

Kelly’s book also contains stories of the early days of amateur and professional basketball in Philadelphia, where Klotz first made his name as master of the deadly accurate two-handed set shot. Kelly says Klotz once made 36 three-point shots in a row.

“One day I was just shooting the bull with Red, talking about great shooters,” Kelly recalls, “and I said that the best pure shooter I ever saw was “Pistol” Pete Maravich. He looked at me and said: ‘You mean the best one-handed shooter you ever saw.’”

RedKlotz Courtesy of Comteq Publishing/Red Klotz in his Margate home. Up until about five years ago, Klotz was still hitting the hardcourts on Jerome Avenue three times a week, still running the pick-and-roll and beating opponents 50 years younger with his flatfooted set shot.

Kelly says the most gratifying moment in the six-year process of writing the book came in October, when he was able to hand Klotz the first prototype of the book on his 92nd birthday.

“He’s had all of these adventures, and I tried to get as many of them as I could into the book,” Kelly says. “I just wanted to get his story on the record, make people aware of what he’s given to the game, and just do his story justice.”

To order the book, go to the Amazon web site or the publisher’s website at www.ComteQpublishing.com.

A tribute to Red Klotz, including the official launch of his bio, "The Legend of Red Klotz," will take place on Thursday, January 9, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Steve and Cookie's By the Bay in Margate. In addition to a book signing by author Tim Kelly, there will be food, a cash bar and surprises to be announced.

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