The Harlem Globetrotters wowed adults and kids, as also K PRADEEP, with their wizardry at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium
`We're not into millions of dollars. We're into millions of smiles.' That was what legendary basketballer Billy Ray Hobley said when asked if the Harlem Globetrotters make a lot of money out of their unique brand of basketball. Through generations this seems to be the motto of these superb entertainers.The wizards of basketball and the greatest entertainers in sport got into their antics right from the time they landed at the team hotel. Slipping into the bright-coloured official gear they gathered round a caparisoned tusker and fed it with jaggery and bananas, while some of them joined the traditional percussionists. They then posed for a team photograph with the elephant as a backdrop. Kevin `Special K' Daley and Mike `The Saint' St. Julien took turns to climb atop the pachyderm juggling, spinning the ball. This emphasis on entertainment came much later. In the beginning the Globetrotters were a competitive, serious side. They had flair for entertainment but the clowning came only when they made sure that they had established a safe lead over their opponents. They then gradually included comic routines into the act until they became more known for their entertainment that the sport itself. "Yes, true. Once you are with the Globetrotters it is the end of competitive basketball. But then to get into the team you need to have outstanding basketball skills. All of us have gone through the competitive grind at the university and club levels. It is from here we get picked for our special talents. The Globetrotters are a professional side but of course not the sort of competitive one that one would find in the regular circuit. There are some exceptional players like Kevin who recently played for the Panama national side in the World Championships," says Mike, who has been with the Globetrotters for 11 years and now doubles as their strength and conditioning coach.Many of the acts that featured in the Globetrotters' programme have become part of the basketballer's repertoire. They were responsible for the development of the fast break offence, slam-dunk, various variations of passes, figure eight weave offence or making unusual, difficult shots. They have a few guys who have figured in the Guinness Book of World Records in vertical dunking from a seemingly impossible height of 12 feet. "Finding a place and being part of the Globetrotters is quite a job. It calls for hard work, rigorous training. I was recruited for my ability to jump high and dunk. I'm 37 now, there are so many youngsters vying for a place. I need to train really hard to keep my skills going. There are so many in competitive basketball who tend to take things easy after a while. They find themselves unable to perform like they did when they began. In Globetrotters this means it is time to go out," explains Mike, who has performed before crowds in 69 countries. Expanding the game of basketball, attempting to make it part of a nation's culture is what the Globetrotters do. "We have not seen much of Indian basketball. But surely we may, through our games help to popularise and expand the game here. For those who have not played the game at all our performance may be an inspiration and for those who have already been initiated into this lovely game we will be able to take it to another level," says Kevin, the Showman of the side.It was a combination of hard-driving competition of the 40s and 50s mixed with the antics of the classic Trotters routine that held spectators spellbound at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium for two consecutive evenings. After the traditional ball handling warm up to the tune of `Sweet Georgia Brown' the team indulged in a true game of basketball. The players then got into `magic circle,' which revealed the incredible coordination, skilful handling of one or more basketballs, meticulous passing and juggling balls between players, balancing and spinning the balls on their fingertips and finishing it off with some unusual, difficult shots.What separates the Globetrotters from any of the other star teams and makes them a unique brand is that they are great basketball players, but also superb entertainers. In a world of whopping salaries, top class athletes, cruel competition often plunging the fans to total disenchantment, the Globetrotters are a refreshing break.