“And that, guys, is what you call an air ball.” Big Easy — the Harlem Globetrotters’ central showman — received a booming laugh from the crowd as a blue, red and white balloon shaped like a basketball floated into the rafters of Newman Arena. The stunt — which started with a simple switch of balls during the opposing team’s free throws — was one of many on Tuesday night that combined incredible basketball talent and light-hearted entertainment.
The Harlem Globetrotters, who are a household name today, originated in the South Side of Chicago in the 1920s. Ever since their first performance in Chicago’s Savoy Ballroom in 1927, the Globetrotters have been touring the country, amusing and shocking audiences across the nation.
Contrary to public belief, the Globetrotters do lose. Though they squeaked out a 106-100 win over the visiting Global Selects on Tuesday in a game that included four-pointers, playing with two balls and baskets worth double the points, the Globetrotters are not always so successful.
Every year, the team sets aside a three-week tour where they play real Division One college teams — without the excess hoopla. In 2006, the Trotters made their win total exactly 22,000 with only 345 losses — most recently an 87-83 defeat by the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ All-Star Team in March of the same year.
However, Tuesday night was about simultaneously pleasing a crowd packed into the stands of Newman Arena and proving the superior athleticism for which the Globetrotters are known so well. The team’s smallest players and guards — Scooter and Bull — put on a display of dribbling talent midway through the third quarter, sliding across the court on their knees, putting the ball between their legs and behind their backs and avoiding defenders at the same time. Moose — whose puffed-out hairdo gave him a few extra inches on his height — was, for the most part, a walking slam-dunk contest, receiving alley-oops and slamming home 180s and reverse dunks. The 7-4 center Stretch was a totem pole on the court, blocking shots and at one point holding the ball up at full arms’ length for a teammate to grab and dunk. Big Easy provided most of the entertainment, interacting with the crowd by bringing kids and adults alike onto the floor, making them dance and shoot baskets for prizes.
With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, the Globetrotters took a two-point lead. Though the Trotters have over 22,000 wins under their belts and a 98.5 winning percentage, fans still sat on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if the men in blue jerseys could pull out another exciting victory. With his back to the basket, Big Easy dropped the ball behind him and kicked it into the air with the heel of his foot. It looked as though it was meant to be a shot, but as the ball remained suspended in mid-air, Bull leapt fully over a defender, grabbed the ball and dunked it. The buzzer sounded and the fans leaned back in their seats. It was another win for the Harlem Globetrotters, full of some truly breathtaking basketball and a lot of laughs.