BRAD LOCKE: Harlem Globetrotters ‘dazzle’ Tupelo

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

I found myself in a time capsule of sorts Friday night, and I had to work hard not to let down my journalistic guard.
Oh, who am I kidding? The Harlem Globetrotters were in town, dazzling the locals with their basketball wizardry, just as they’ve done for 85 years. They played a game at BancorpSouth Arena, sure, against the perpetually hapless Washington Generals, but this was a show.
The Generals and the red-white-and-blue ball are mere props, just like the bucket of confetti. I don’t know how far back the confetti trick goes, but it’s one of the Globetrotters’ most familiar acts, and it’s always been a winner. That, and the pregame warmup circle – where the ball bounces between players like a hot molecule – reminded me I was sharing an experience with several generations.
I’m pretty sure the original Globetrotters didn’t dance to MC Hammer during pregame introductions, but maybe they did the Charleston or something. The thread running through this organization has always interactive entertainment, and that’s what truly makes it special.
Friday’s “main attraction,” as he was billed, was 6-foot-9 Hammer Harrison, who instigated a water fight, picked up a white-haired man and swung him around, and got three smooches from a cute blonde after returning the purse he’d swiped.
Children were periodically brought onto the floor, and one little dude in a Mississippi State jersey nailed a shot to win himself a Globetrotters jersey. I’m thinking that MSU shirt might stay in the closet for a while.
It wasn’t a huge crowd on hand, a sign of the times, I guess. The Globetrotters aren’t viewed as the barnstorming phenoms they once were, but they’re as entertaining as ever. They keep vestiges of the old – from “Sweet Georgia Brown” to the red-and-white striped shorts – and mix in new innovations, like a penalty box and the four-point shot.
Yes, a penalty box, and in case you were wondering, the Trotters can still whip the defensively deficient Generals 2-on-5. The four-point shot – taken from a designated circle 35 feet from the basket – was the specialty of Firefly Fisher.
Oh, the Globetrotters won, 114-106. They haven’t lost to the Generals since, well, forever. It’s just part of the script.
It’s a beautiful script that’s been played out over and over for decades, but it’s always fresh, and as the reactions of those pulled into the action reminded me, always the height of fun.

Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.