BANGOR, Maine — Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain was a member of the team. So was fellow NBA Hall of Fame member Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
The Harlem Globetrotters’ all-time roster of current and former players is dotted with known basketball players like NBA alumnus Olden Polynice or Globetrotter great Fred “Curly” Neal, multiple league standouts like Connie Hawkins, female stars like Lynette Woodard, and lesser-knowns or downright unknowns such as An-gel Acuna of Chihuahua State Teachers College.
So how do all these players from divergent basketball origins wind up as Globetrotters?
“There are many different avenues to getting here, but the scouts are the best way. They scout regular season games, tournaments, NCAA tournament games, whatever,” said Clyde Sinclair, a former Globetrotter player who has been a team head coach the last four years. “Right now we have two guys going around the country searching universities, semipro leagues and pros to see if they want to be a Globetrotter.
“Sometimes we’ll hear about players through former players or other contacts, and we have numerous minicamps all over the country.”
It seems if there’s a regulation basketball court that attracts regular play, it could also attract Harlem’s scouts.
As important as basketball skills are, it takes much more to be “Globetrotters material.”
“First of all, you look for a good person and individual. You have to remember you’re a basketball goodwill ambassador,” Sinclair explained. “You also have to be a good player. Than you get trained in the magic of basketball.”
You could almost call it basic training due to its regimented nature and the degree of dedication it requires, but there’s nothing basic about it.
“First, our scouts do background checks on candidates, so not just anyone can walk in off the street and try out,” Sinclair said. “We have all kinds of minicamp tryouts all over the country and then we have our big tryout in October.”
And whether you have 10 years on the team or none, it makes no difference. Tenure doesn’t guarantee job security.
“Guys have to try out every year because there’s always someone trying to get you. It’s a great thing, but it’s a business,” Sinclair said. “You practice twice a day for 2½ to three hours a session for two weeks.
“We have film work, older guys coming in to show them stuff… It’s a hard process.”
Scooter Christensen can vouch for that. The 30-year-old University of Montana alumnus and Las Vegas native is in his fourth year touring with the Globetrotters.
“My camp was two weeks straight, two practices a day… It was rigorous,” Christensen said. “We did three-man weaves, shooting, layups, rebounding, and then we started getting into the tricks. That took some time.”
Christensen credits Neal, whose No. 22 was retired by the Globetrotters, and Michael “Wild Thing” Wilson for helping him and setting the bar for future players.
“I could be the best ballhandler in the world and have all kinds of tricks, but if my attitude is terrible, I’m not Harlem Globetrotters material,” Christensen said. “You have to be a people person, love kids, love talking to people.
“We’re all basketball players first, but that’s not all we do. We also help people laugh and have fun. We like to say laughter is a universal language.”
If that’s true, Christensen is multi-lingual with his effortless, infectious smile.
Ironically, the prototypical “Trotter” never saw them perform in person.
“You know what? I never did, but I watched the cartoons. You know, with Scooby Doo?” Christensen said with a laugh. “But once I got into the organization, I wanted to know everything about it.”
Christensen didn’t get into the organization the usual way.
“My story’s kind of unique. I was a video coordinator and practice player for the Phoenix Suns,” he explained. “A Globetrotters scout came to one of their scrimmages, saw me play, and invited me to camp.”
And now he’s one of 24 players wearing the exclusive red, white, blue and gold jerseys on two teams (one East coast, one West) traveling all over the world, spending nine months away from home, and doing about 225 shows per year.
“Anywhere there’s a basketball court, the Globetrotters could probably be there,” Christensen said.” We play EVERYWHERE, man.”