Harlem Globetrotters confirm yet another family-oriented performance at USA

Several decades ago, parents and children could look forward to familiar strains of “Sweet Georgia Brown” on televised appearances of the Harlem Globetrotters — a family-oriented franchise of trick shot specialists, touring internationally — via ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” on Saturday afternoons.

 

The Globetrotters trace their history to the 1920s, but the NBA did not break the color line until 30 years later. Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain and Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins were NBA players with Globetrotter legacies.

Manager Abe Saperstein selected the team’s name because Harlem was then considered the center of African-American culture. The team was born in 1926 Chicago, and it would be 1968 before it played Harlem.

Yet the ‘Trotters survive, retired numbers including the 36 worn by Meadowlark Lemon, Marques Haynes’ 20, Fred “Curly Neal’s 22, Charles “Tex” Harrison’s 34, Hubert “Geese” Ausbie’s 35, and Goose Tatum’s 50.

Contemporary names do not slip off the tongue as easily, but today’s Globetrotters impress. One need only consider the international records set by the Globetrotters on Guiness Book of World Records Day on Nov. 12, 2015.

Veteran Chris “Handles” Franklin, wearing No. 14, is among the Harlem Globetrotters entertaining at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the United Supermarkets Arena.

Cindy Harper, United Supermarkets Arena associate director, said the ‘Trotters also appeared there on Feb. 5, 2001; Feb. 12, 2004; Feb. 1, 2005; March 18, 2006; Nov. 29, 2007; Jan. 26, 2010; Feb. 9, 2012; Feb. 20, 2014; Jan. 27, 2015; Feb. 9, 2016; and Jan. 5, 2017. The last of many visits at the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum was Jan. 12, 1998, said city representative Lisa Thomason.

One need only check youtube.com to find records Franklin set. One individual record guaranteed to astonish: At a distance of 60 feet, seven and one-half inches, he obliterated the record for sinking a basketball shot by kneeling with his back to the basket and tossing the ball over his head.

Skeptical? Check out youtube.com/watch?v=6R4OkHV3AGk.

The most times a basketball team sank half-court shots in one hour from mid-court had been almost 200. The Globetrotters, including Franklin, shattered the record by swishing 348 shots in an hour. That’s more than five per minute.

For proof, see youtube.com/watch?v=rzrv_3Gjb2U online.

Of the past Globetrotters who visited with A-J Media, few possessed financial or geographic means when young to see Meadowlark, Goose, Geese or Curly ply their trade in person. Rather, as children, they met the Globetrotters as animated likenesses on a Saturday morning cartoon show. Only 26 episodes were made the first two seasons; repeats continued for years.

Franklin — who later picked up the nickname Handles after handling situations on the streets and basketball courts — may be the first who knew, from the moment he learned the animated Globetrotters represented a real organization, he wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter.

He arrived late after trying a back door.

Franklin lives in home town Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, although nowhere near the project housing of his youth. He’s also always been a Philadelphia Eagles fan. As the recent NFL season began, he said he met and conducted a “ritual” with Eagles QB starter Carson Wentz, during which victories from a Globetrotters basketball were moved into Wentz’s football. Wentz enjoyed a super season before being injured; not quite as confident, Franklin still believes the Eagles’ defense will provide a victory in today’s Super Bowl vs. the Patriots.

The ‘Trotter credits both parents — his dad, a police officer; his mom, a hospital employee — as role models. High school basketball coach Bill Gaffey, said Franklin, helped keep him away from dangerous influences.

Franklin played basketball at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, and finished second on the school’s all-time assists list and fifth in all-time steals. He was in the top 10 nationally in both categories. He described himself as “a flashy player, saying, “I enjoyed playing to the crowd, making behind-my-back passes.”

He and Gaffey did bump heads, but the coach allowed it — at least, unless a flash move led to a turnover.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people,” Franklin noted. So he earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

Franklin was 26 when he made a tape and attempted to earn his first Globetrotter tryout. Already, he was older than most Globetrotter rookies. Timing worked against him in 1995. There was an NBA lockout; some professional players were visiting the Globetrotters facility, considering signing for a paycheck.

Franklin was in New York City, where, he said, there was an “indie basketball team around every corner.” He also received encouragement from Orlando Antigua, the Globetrotters’ first Hispanic member.

Franklin instead participated as New York’s entry in a national Best Dribbler competition sponsored by Nike. He won.

From 2000 to 2004, he stayed busy filming advertisements and music videos for Nike — and amazed the press with his dribbling wizardry while working with NBA stars Paul Pierce, Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Baron Davis.

His personality, and mastering dribbling the ball while lying on the floor and spinning his body, saw the Globetrotters pursue and sign him.

Franklin has traveled to 83 countries, played basketball with President Barack Obama at the White House and tossed out a first pitch at a Phillies game.

The Globetrotters are known for generating family memories. Houston resident Debbie Baxter, for example, told A-J Media, “Our dad took us (to see the Globetrotters) years ago. That was the most fun day of entertainment and sharing I think I have ever had. It was amazing. I remember all the players being kind, fun guys.”

But the team plays “almost every day and twice on some Saturdays,” said Franklin, noting a necessary separation from family. He tries to use Skype and social media to remain in touch with his daughter, 20.

Franklin said he tells youngsters to pursue their dreams, do anything to make them come true — and never give up. That also applies to those who might aspire to one day wear the red, white and blue of the Globetrotters.

“It really did happen for me,” he said. “I’m living my childhood dream.”

Globetrotters return Monday

* Attraction — World famous Harlem Globetrotters.

* When — 7 p.m. Monday.Feb. 5

* Where — United Supermarkets Arena, 1701 Indiana Ave.

* Tickets — Limited number of court-side seats $105. Reserved seats $51.75, $43, $35.25 and 29.50 (includes service charges).

* Outlets — Select-A-Seat outlets at Amigo’s Supermarket, Dollar Western Wear, Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, Market Street, Ralph’s Records and United Supermarkets.

* Information — 770-2000.

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