Harlem Globetrotters delight a capacity MC crowd

Bedtimes were missed. There may have been a few yawns at work this morning. But this much is known after the Harlem Globetrotter’s visited a packed Kailey Gymnasium at Miles Community College on Wednesday — no souvenir red, white and blue basketball was left unsigned.

Coach Sweet Lou Dunbar’s world famous Harlem Globetrotters were both entertaining and accomodating in their visit to Miles City, the first in more than two decades.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Big Easy Lofton, a 6’9” showman from New Orleans, about being in Miles City for the first time. “We got a pretty good greeting at the Walmart.”

“I actually spent a Thanksgiving once in Glendive, Montana,” Sweet Lou said. He declined to elaborate upon hearing that Glendive and Miles City are notorious sports rivals.

Miles City is small, but not too small for the worldly Globetrotters. “We want to play everything everywhere,” Big Easy said. “We think everyone deserves a good show, whether it’s 400 people, or 40,000 at Madison Square Garden.”

Big Easy also shared a piece of his heart during a pregame interview, showing that ultimately, being a Globetrotter is about much more than the show.

“Back in 2005, me and my family lost everything [in Hurricane Katrina],” he said. His family was evacuated to Houston with the help of the American Red Cross.

“The Globetrotters had a charity game there, but a couple days before the game, they were giving away gift cards and toiletries and things from the Red Cross. My mother bought a little hot plate, and she was able to cook a pot of beans for 13 of us in a Motel 6. It was good, though, to have a sense of home and family and to sit down over a plate of food.”

And that’s why Wednesday’s game was particularly meaningful to him. All proceeds from ticket and souvenir sales at the Centra were donated to the American Red Cross.

Ginger Roll, the volunteer community liaison with the American Red Cross Montana/ Idaho chapter, shared just what it means to have the Harlem Globetrotters in our neck of the woods.

“Through their energy and support, they are helping fundraise and bring awareness to what the American Red Cross does,” she said at the game.

“Having the world-known Globetrotters here — not just in Montana, but in eastern Montana — and knowing that they are here for us, is huge,” Roll continued.

Also, they played some basketball — the kind of high-flying, show-boating basketball that hasn’t been seen since an earlier generation of Globetrotters visited Miles City years ago.

Despite trailing by three points to the World All Stars in the final minute, the Globetrotters prevailed 73-70 with a series of flashy rim-bending dunks.

There was breakdancing and backflips, and that was just the pre-game entertainment. The Globetrotters, to cheers and smiles from the crowd of all ages, warmed up not with the traditional layups and passing drills, but with ball tricks, dance moves and singing. Ball handler and general trickster Scooter Christensen sings, too.  

Of course, the ‘Globetrotters won the tip and with their traditional weaving pass pattern, they scored first on a dunk off a kick pass. Yes, a kick pass. Anything goes in a Globetrotter game.

The fans cheered the silliness of mascot Globie, but when Big G entered the gym before the half, the Centra went wild. Big G, a huge, inflatable mascot: he danced, he fell down, his eyes popped out of his giant, air-filled head.

That momentum propelled the Globetrotters to a 22-13 lead before the Globetrotters deployed the “steal a lady’s handbag and dance with her while her bag is spirited away, only to be returned gift-wrapped to her” trick.

The All Stars chose that moment to bring out Cager, a seven-foot tall, black-mask-wearing super villain. He wagered that if the ‘Trotters lost, there would be no autograph session after the game. He enforced his bet with a huge dunk on the Stars’ possession, but the good guys took a 24-19 lead into the half.

The Globetrotters had had enough of Cager in the third quarter, and one ‘Trotter donned a light-up Mexican wrestling mask and floored three All Stars, including Cager, with his moves. Despite the crowds’ pleas, the referee awarded two free throws to the All Stars.

But, after more tricks and travails, the Globetrotters prevailed with that last-minute comeback.

It was just another night, and another gym, for the Globetrotters. But Dunbar said the team does its best to entertain at each and every outing.

Dunbar is in his 41st season with the Globetrotters. He played for 24 seasons before moving to the coaching staff, and he’s never seen a Globetrotters’ loss. He speaks as a man who, after all those years, still lives for his job.  

“I go out every night and see smiles,” he said. “My job doesn’t make me grow up. I get to enjoy the game of basketball, see the world, put smiles on people’s faces. It’s almost like being Santa Claus.”