Team: Wabash YMCA, Harlem Globe Trotters, New York Broadway Clowns, Harlem Clowns
“But if anyone should go into the Hall of Fame it should have been Runt Pullins. He was a little guy who played for the Globetrotters and there wasn’t a thing he couldn’t do.”
—Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, 1975 (Jet Magazine)
Home: Chicago, Illinois
A 5′-8″ native of New Orleans who grew up in Chicago, Al “Runt” Pullins honed his exceptional speed, ball handling, and shooting skills on the playgrounds of the city’s South Side and at the Wabash YMCA.
In 1928, he led local Wendell Phillips High School to win Chicago’s lightweight city basketball championship title while setting a Chicago high school single season scoring record that stood until the late 1940s. This was also the first time that a city basketball championship had been won by an African American team.
After high school, Pullins joined up with Abe Saperstein in 1929 to help solidify the newly organized original Harlem Globe Trotters. Saperstein needed a star player and an automobile in order to succeed and get bookings. Pullins provided both. He was the team’s most sensational talent and they drove to games in his Ford.
Pullins was so essential in the birth and stabilization of the early ‘Trotters that Saperstein put him at the very top of his own 1950 list of all-time greatest Globe Trotters, even ahead of eventual Basketball Hall of Fame members Reece “Goose” Tatum, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, and Marques Haynes.
Haynes was enshrined in Springfield in 1998. Tatum was inducted posthumously in 2011, and Clifton posthumously in 2014.
Saperstein’s superlative assessment was echoed later by Clifton, who in 1950 became the first African American player to sign an NBA contract. “He was a little guy who played for the Globetrotters and there wasn’t a thing he couldn’t do,” said Clifton in a 1975 interview with Jet Magazine. “He’s the one who should have been the first to go into the Hall of Fame.”
Following his career with the ‘Trotters, Pullins owned and managed the New York Broadway Clowns. Of significant interest is that the Clowns, with Pullins, traveled to Los Angeles in 1947 to play the Los Angeles Red Devils. The Red Devils featured future Major League Baseball star Jackie Robinson, future New York Rens player George Crowe, and former Globe Trotters player Everett “Ziggy” Marcel.
Albert “Runt” Pullins is on our list of Most Deserving for Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement, from the Black Fives Era.