By Courtney Herrick and Samantha Small
They’ve performed on over 6 continents and in 122 countries and territories. Their team rosters have even included athletes from Virginia Wesleyan College. Celebrating their 90th year anniversary of bringing smiles to kids and adults alike all around the globe with trick shots, jokes and audience engagement amidst a friendly game of basketball, the Harlem Globetrotters began their tour this year in Jacksonville, Florida. After making an appearance in Canada, the Globetrotters paid a special visit to Norfolk, VA on Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 at Old Dominion University’s Ted Constant Center.
“The Globetrotters’ 90-year winning streak ends tonight,” the World All-Stars’ (the Globetrotters’ opponent) head coach said at the opening of the game.
The beloved players emerged from the main entrance to the court sporting their traditional uniforms in honor of their 90th year anniversary. They kicked off the game with their famous gold circle introduction of the team members. Trick shots and moves followed the introduction of the team. One player performed a huge crowd-pleaser by hanging upside down on the hoop and holding on to the rim with just his legs.
“I like how they are passing the ball and their trick shots and stuff,” fan Deryan Cobbins said.
Cobbins expressed his support for the team by purchasing one of the Globetrotters’ signature red, white and blue basketballs during the game.
No. 12, the team’s showman, Ant Atkinson held the audience’s attention throughout the game with jokes about the referee’s size, infamous dance moves and crowd engagement. Fans were even fed cotton candy by Ant after he grabbed a bag from a vender who was working the game.
Justin Sullivan, a first time attendee to a Harlem Globetrotters game, said the game was very energetic. Sullivan even had ideas of trick shots that he wanted to see.
“I want to see two players slam dunk at the same time. One comes up from the side and then the other and they dunk,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s mom, Nakanisha Sullivan, said that it was definitely worth the money she paid for the tickets.
VWC alumni Chris Teasley attended the game on Feb. 26 and looked on from a seat in the audience. Teasley played on the opponent team of the Globetrotters, which was called the Washington Generals at the time, for two years before leaving the team to tend to an ankle injury he sustained which required surgery.
“Traveling with the Globetrotters was one of the best experiences I could have asked for as a young man just getting out of college,” Teasley said.
During the two years he toured with the Globetrotters, Teasley traveled to about 40 states and 21 different countries.
“When I heard the details of the job and realized I would be traveling the world and playing in different states and countries, I could not pass it up. Although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in terms of basketball, being around the game and traveling was more than enough,” Teasley said.
Among the countries he traveled to, his favorite were France, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Norway, Guam, Japan, Iceland and Morocco.
“Iceland was probably my favorite place I traveled to because I got to see the Northern Lights and visit the Blue Lagoon. Also, I liked Morocco because it was just one of the most beautiful places to be in,” Teasley said.
Although the fans from other countries faced language barriers, Teasley said the foreign crowds were just as energetic as the American crowds.
“They treated us fantastically in every country we went to. After the game, fans would be lined up outside by the bus trying to get pictures and autographs. They were very appreciative of our efforts and it showed,” Teasley said.
VWC Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Rhett Bonner also toured and played with the Globetrotters’ opponent team. He and Men’s Basketball Head Coach Dave Macedo worked to help get Teasley’s foot in the door to start his journey with the Globetrotters. Teasley said he also knew multiple players who played on opposing teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) who graduated before Teasley and had the opportunity to play with the opponent team as well.
Teasley affords a lot of his experience and success to Macedo and the VWC community.
“Playing for Coach Macedo really prepares you for every aspect of life after college. Without the experience at VWC and the guidance of the coaching staff, everyone at school including fellow students and professors and my family, I might not have been ready to travel the world,” Teasley said.
Teasley said the experience was very tiring as the teams traveled on a daily basis and sometimes played twice a day. Even though the teams were constantly on the move, Teasley said the energy levels were always high when it was time to perform.
“Every individual realizes they are part of something very big and that we had thousands of people looking up to us… playing in front of thousands of fans on a daily basis was very humbling,” Teasley said.
During his tour with the team, Teasley said he met a lot of people who were helpful in acclimating him to the grind of being on the road. During his second and final year, Teasley met Globetrotters player No. 34 Thunder Law who is a Chesapeake native and played in high school with one of Teasley’s college teammates.
“It was good to know someone from the same place,” Teasley said.
The Globetrotters not only emphasized sportsmanship throughout the game, but they also stressed just how important children and the roles they play in today’s society are. The Globetrotters’ partner, World Vision, displayed a message to fans with the help of Thunder on the importance of helping children have an equal opportunity to things such as education and healthcare. For years, the team dedicated itself to emphasizing the importance of children.
“That’s what it’s all about, right here,” Atkinson said as he placed a Harlem Globetrotters’ jersey on a fan that was brought to center court.
The Globetrotters ended the first period of the game with their opponent in the lead. Despite being down during the first half of the game, the Globetrotters did not disappoint with the final score. The Harlem Globetrotters finished the comical game of basketball and took the win with a score of 82-78.
People of all ages, races, genders, sexes and professions filled the Ted Constant Center in Norfolk in February, and that is exactly what Teasley said is the highlight of the Globetrotters’ games. Sure, the show is entertaining and gives even the most cynical person a few laughs, but more importantly, it brings everyone together.
“The Globetrotters bring so many different kinds of people together when they have a show. It was great to be a part of that and meet different people from different walks of life,” Teasley said.