By JEFFREY SISK
The Harlem Globetrotters have spent the better part of a century entertaining millions of people in all corners of the world with their unique brand of basketball wizardry. They’ll kick off their 2015 tour — the 89th consecutive year of touring for the Globetrotters — on Friday, Dec. 26, at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.
For the past several years, football crazy Pittsburgh fans have flocked to Consol Energy Center for what’s become a day-after-Christmas basketball ritual.
On Friday, the Globetrotters play a pair of games against the Washington Generals — at 1 and 6 p.m. — giving local audiences two chances to see them compete in an exciting, family-friendly atmosphere. Tickets prices start at $20.50 and are available online at www.ticketmaster.com.
The projected Globetrotters lineup for the Pittsburgh tour stop includes Scooter Christensen, Big Easy Lofton, Moose Weeks, Crash Beaty, Sweet J Ekwormadu, Hacksaw Hall, Too Tall Hall, Flip White and Buckets Blake.
Christensen, a 10-year Globetrotters veteran who holds the Guinness World Record for longest duration spinning a basketball on his nose (5.1 seconds, in case you’re wondering), recently spoke with Pittsburgh In Tune about the upcoming tour stop and his experiences with the most famous basketball team in the world.
“I feel so very fortunate and blessed to be a part of this organization. knowing that the guys before me paved the way for me and my teammates to keep the tradition alive,” the 36-year-old Christensen says of his time with the Trotters. “My intentions were never to be a Globetrotter. I wanted to be the best basketball player I could be. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“It’s something that definitely developed after my college years (at the University of Montana). I played for a couple of minor pro leagues and then I became an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns and through that, the Globetrotters found me and invited me to training camp. I became a Globetrotter (for the) 2004-05 season.”
Christensen, a 6-foot-1 guard, has played thousands of games for the Globetrotters over the years and considers himself blessed to have experienced all sorts of people, places and things he never could have imagined.
“My most memorable experiences have been playing for the troops in Baghdad,” he says. “I also had the opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier where F-16s were coming down on a moving ship.”
Growing up in Las Vegas, Christensen said he admired the ball handling magic of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. As such, he modeled his game after the Hall of Famer.
“He had a lot of ball tricks that helped his competitive game.,” Christensen recalls. “So I copied and mimicked everything that he did to handle the ball which, ironically, definitely helped me become a Globetrotter.
“I still have to work hard to keep my ball handling skills up to par. That means countless hours and hours and hours of practice and, of course, I’m always working on new tricks.”
As much as he enjoys his experiences as a Globetrotter, Christensen admits that the grueling tour schedule — which results in long periods of time away from home — can take a toll.
“If there’s one thing that is definitely hard when it comes to the Globetrotters, it’s time spent away from your family,” Christensen says. “But having your teammates on the road with you going through the same thing makes it easier for one another. We’re like a family on the road and to know that your brothers and sisters are with you traveling, playing and practicing, makes life a lot easier.
“Another thing that makes it easier is our fans. Because as soon as we step on the floor and they give us energy, we give them that same energy back.”
This year’s tour has been dubbed the “Washington Generals’ Revenge Tour” in honor of the Globetrotters’ storied nemesis.
Louis “Red” Klotz was the longtime mastermind behind the Generals as a player, coach and owner for more than 60 years. Klotz died last July 14 at age 93 and the Generals are dedicating the upcoming touring season to his memory.
“To honor Red’s unmatched legacy, the Washington Generals will be wearing a uniform patch with his signature when playing the Harlem Globetrotters on their 2015 world tour,” current Generals general manager John Ferrari explains. “Red’s spirit will live on each time the Generals take the court against the Globetrotters, and each game will represent a renewed opportunity for victory.”
Victories are few and far between for the Generals against the Globetrotters. The squads haven’t faced off in five years and the last Washington victory came in 1971 — when 50-year-old player/coach Klotz sank a last-second shot to seal the upset win.
For more than six decades, Klotz put together a team to face the Globetrotters more than 400 games a year. In addition to the Generals, he organized squads like the New Jersey Reds, the New York Nationals, the International Elite, Global Select and the World All-Stars. On March 13, 2011, Klotz became the first non-Trotter to have his jersey retired by the Globetrotters.
Though the Generals have some added incentive this year in honoring Klotz’s memory, Christensen doesn’t expect the Globetrotters to lose to Washington in Pittsburgh — or at any other tour stop.
“It’s certainly not going to happen in my lifetime,” he recently quipped to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “(The Generals have) got a couple tricks up their sleeves, but they’re messing with the masters. We’re the masters of trickery.”
Christensen doesn’t plan on hanging up his high-top sneakers any time soon. He says he still loves playing the game of basketball and having the opportunity to touch so many lives as a member of the Globetrotters.
“As long as God continues to keep me healthy and I have the opportunity to make people smile, I’ll be a Globetrotter,” he insists. “After my Globetrotter days I’ll probably be coaching somewhere or maybe running camps or even being a motivational speaker. I’d like to inspire someone to reach their dreams just as I have.”