Harlem Globetrotter Goose Tatum
I never tire of watching the Golden State Warriors play basketball at their best — great passing, intense defense, and near-impossible and timely long distance shots (almost comical, in fact) made by compelling and mostly likable personalities. Their popularity is not limited to the San Francisco Bay area — their following is worldwide. According to ESPN, “the first two games [of this year’s NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland] peaked at more than 21 million viewers in the U.S. alone, and there were 50 million watching in China…This is basketball at its highest level in its highest profile.”
While much of this immense audience can be attributed to the participation of the larger-than-life figure of Cleveland’s LeBron James (basically a “superhero” on the court), the consistently brilliant play of the Warriors over the last four seasons has revolutionized the game of basketball, so much so that it is easy to be reminded of the Harlem Globetrotters when watching them. Like the Trotters, they make watching basketball fun.
In Spinning the Globe, Ben Green’s terrific 2005 biography of the Globetrotters, he wrote that they “were not just a great barnstorming team; they were a sociology class on wheels, bringing black hoops and black culture to a hundred Midwestern towns that had seen neither, and in the process transforming Dr. James Naismiths stodgy, wearisome game — which was still sometimes played in chicken-wire cages by roughneck immigrants with flailing elbows and bloodied skulls, a sport more resembling rugby — into an orchestration of speed, fluidity, motion, dazzling skill, and most improbably, inspired comedy.” While the Warriors are not a “sociology class on wheels” like the Trotters were, they are transforming the way the game is played, growing the audience for it, and revolutionizing the sport along the way.
If, like me, you are in a basketball frame-of-mind, I encourage you to check out the 2005 interview I conducted with Green on the Globetrotters, which can be read by clicking here. Meanwhile…no matter the outcome of this year’s finals (looks like another Warriors championship), you can bet the audience will be watching — and entertained.