HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Nine decades after they first formed, the Harlem Globetrotters are still entertaining fans worldwide as they make stop after stop on their special 90th anniversary tour. For nearly half of those years, the Globetrotters took their classic mix of sheer basketball skill and timeless comedy to Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum on an annual basis.
But with the Coliseum temporarily closed for major renovations, the Globetrotters’ Long Island show moved across the street this year, to Hofstra University for the first time, where the Trotters’ longtime rivals, the Washington Generals, have given way to a new foe, the World All-Stars, before a thoroughly amused crowd at the David S. Mack Sports Complex on Wednesday night.
Before the game, the Globetrotters’ Master of Ceremonies honored former Globetrotter legends George “Meadowlark” Lemon (who died three days earlier, at the age of 83) and Marques Haynes (who died at 89, in May) with a brief statement on their historic careers to the crowd.
After the evening started earlier with a game of musical chairs involving the Globetrotters’ mascot Globie, the World All-Stars’ head coach moved to mid-court and boldly proclaimed, “The Harlem Globetrotters had the last 90 years. The World All-Stars will have the next 90 years. [Tonight,] the World All-Stars will win!”
He was quickly silenced when the Globetrotters’ emcee pointed toward the crowd while telling him, “Nobody knows who the World-Stars are except for the four people you told to clap!”
Following the Trotters’ famous “Sweet Georgia Brown” mid-court warmup circle, Bronx, N.Y. native Slick Willie Shaw proceeded to climb into the stands, and on only his second attempt, made an impressive underhand shot from the steps just in front of the first row between sections 103 and 104, opposite the All-Stars bench.
Before the opening tip-off, Brooklyn, N.Y. native Donte “Hammer” Harrison, who today, fills the Trotters’ longstanding “Clown Prince” role, used a security wand to screen the referee for metal. When the wand went silent as Hammer scanned the referee’s head, Hammer said, “There’s nothing up here.”
And when the wand was put near the ref’s rear, Hammer got an exploding sound he wasn’t ready for — that of the referee passing gas.
“Where do you think you are? Suffolk County?” Hammer asked him.
Once the game started, Slick airballed a 35-point four-point shot, designated by a marker on a right wing spot on the floor just shy of Stephen Curry’s normal NBA 3-point range. Hammer joked, “He shoots like went to Hofstra.”
(Okay, so this year, Hofstra is actually picked to win its conference; but during many years in the past, that joke would have made even more sense).
The World All-Stars later got out to an 18-12 lead before that was cut to 22-20, during a time out when inflated second mascot Big G bounced and around and slammed his air-filled face on the court.
Out of the break, when Crissa “Ace” Jackson, one of the three female members of the Trotters’ 31-player roster, missed from the same 4-point spot that Slick misfired from earlier, Hammer shouted, “She shoots like a girl!”
Defensively, Hammer crowded an inbounds attempt and was warned by the referee, “Hey, you’ve got to give him three feet,” The Trotters’ leader drew a bunch of laughs with the response, “But I’ve only got two!”
Trailing 24-20 after the first quarter, the Trotters, clad in their special throwback duds, quickly tied the game with the next four points, then fell behind, 29-26, on a 3-pointer, before they starting pulling various fans onto the court — the last of which was a young lady named Michelle, from nearby Hicksville, N.Y., who was graciously given the gift of Hammer’s sweaty headband.
Hammer then put on another one, saying, “Don’t worry, I always carry a spare.”
Moments later, with the Trotters up, 32-31, in the final minute of the half, Ace helped an adorable little girl spin a basketball before Ace’s teammates offered the girl a smaller ball as a gift. Hammer held it a good five feet above the girl’s head and told her to “jump up and get it.”
Trying for his own version of a strip on defense, Hammer ripped the jersey right off of a driving, rather pale World All-Stars player, who then ran to his own locker room.
As he did, the Trotters’ emcee told him, “Hey, get off the court and go get a tan.” The player was joined by his teammates a few seconds later, with the Trotters clinging to a slim 34-33 halftime lead.
Returning to the court for the second half in their brand new 2016 uniforms (which were far more like their more recognizable, world famous blue jerseys and white shorts with red stripes), the Trotters extended their advantage to 42-38 on a series of their trademark weave cuts and passes, and high-flying dunks. But the World All-Stars took at 44-42 edge and were at the line, when one of their players had his shorts taken down by Ace, who was ejected as a result.
To no avail, Hammer tried to argue in defense of Ace, saying, “We’ve been doing that for 90 years.”
Down a man, the Trotters fell behind further, 49-44, and suddenly added a young boy from the stands, named Leo, to their roster. They asked him if he could make a shot “from here,” which was halfway inside the paint. When Leo assured them he could, they turned and pointed in unison to their own basket more than 85 feet away, and yelled, “Shoot it!”
Given an oversized replica Hammer jersey, Leo had trouble trying it on. But he was encouraged by Hammer, who told him in front of a giggling crowd, “Come on, Buddy, any day now.”
Waiting for Leo cooled the World All-Stars off, as the Trotters scored the final eight points of the third quarter to lead, 52-49, with the run being punctuated by a buzzer-beating dunk from 5-foot-6 Rocket Pennington, who was given a helpful boost on his way up to the rim by Dragon Taylor.
Leading just 56-55, the Trotters resorted to a special type of defense in which Antonio “Squirrel” Murrell stood on top of the basket until the referee forced him down.
A crowd-pleasing, reverse dunk by Eric “Hacksaw” Hall, off of backwards bounce pass through his legs by Slick, pushed the Trotters’ lead to 64-57 with less than three minutes left. But thanks to some tinkering with the scoreboard, the All-Stars cheated their way to a 70-66 with a minute left.
The Trotters tried to fix it but were wrongly accused for tampering themselves, and had another player ejected, giving them only four players a couple of minutes after Hammer left with a supposed knee injury.
Having successfully convinced the referee that the Trotters had to forfeit, the All-Stars began celebrating and walking off the court as winners.
However, not so fast. Doing his best Willis Reed imitation, Hammers re-emerged from the locker room to give his team the necessary five players to go on.
Soon after, a pair of dunks tied the game, 70-70, with 35 seconds left, before a Hammer block and a game-winning dunk at the other end by Larriques “Beast” Cunningham, with 1.2 seconds left, to lift the Trotters to a 72-70 win.
Although there were of course a lot of technical basketball rules broken by each team (as there always are), no one really cared with how much they were entertained.
And as Hammer told the crowd at the end, “The only rule at a Globetrotters game is to have fun!”
To that end, add Hofstra to the myriad of places around the world where the Harlem Globetrotters have brought a smiles to countless fans.