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Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, November 11, 2007
Story appeared in TICKET section, Page unknown25
Queue up "Sweet Georgia Brown," because here comes America's funniest professional basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters.
They're a big, happy blur of red, white and blue, a bunch of comedians with basketballs on their fingertips and grins on their faces. And look out! That rascally Kevin "Special K" Daley is in the stands with a bucket of something he's about to dump on the fans.
"Sometimes it's water, sometimes it's confetti. It's always a surprise," says third-year player Shane "Scooter" Christensen, who will flee into the squealing crowd to avoid Daley's loaded bucket. "The Globetrotters are known for the bucket trick. It's one of the best gags we have."
After eight decades of roundball antics around the world, a new era of Globetrotter basketball is about to begin right here in Sacramento.
The "Magic As Ever" 2008 World Tour gets under way Thursday at Arco Arena, with the Globetrotters and their longtime rivals, the Washington Generals, meeting five times over four days.
This is the first time in 82 years the Globetrotters will play more than one or two games in a city, and it's the earliest start to the franchise's annual world tour, which usually begins Dec. 26.
"This is the launch of a whole new vision for the Harlem Globetrotters, and it starts in Sacramento," says Kurt Schneider, new chief executive officer of Harlem Globetrotters International. "What we're trying to do is evolve this company from a live-event performing group to a global entertainment brand. We wanted to start our new vision in Sacramento because we've always had success there, and the fans are incredible.
"I like to say we're the definition of wholesome, family entertainment. We're lucky because this is a brand everyone loves. Everyone has a Harlem Globetrotters story, and they're all positive."
As a part of the new plan, the players' jerseys now include their nickname along with their number, to help fans connect with the talent, Schneider says.
In addition, the organization held its first player draft in July, landing five new Globetrotters. Anthony "Ant" Atkinson, a first-team Division II All-American out of Barton College in North Carolina, made the cut and is on the roster to play here. (The team has West Coast and East Coast rosters, and a third one for the international tour.) Also in the works is a reality TV show to find "the next Globetrotter."
Player salaries generally range from about $50,000 annually for a rookie to $500,000 for a veteran star.
"It takes three things, and all three things, to be a Harlem Globetrotter," Schneider says. "He has to be a great basketball player, a great entertainer and a great person. We do background checks, and we want to make sure he's a person a kid can look up to and respect."
It's been that way almost from the beginning, when promoter Abe Saperstein founded a competitive barnstorming team of African American athletes that played its first game in 1926 in front of 300 people. The Globetrotters have gone on to entertain about 125 million fans in 118 countries.
The team has always been competitive, winning the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1940 and famously beating the world champion Minneapolis Lakers in 1948. The Harlem Globetrotters were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Among the legendary players of the past are Meadowlark Lemon, Fred "Curly" Neal, "Sweet" Lou Dunbar and Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain (before he went to the NBA).
The new generation carries on a tradition 82 years in the making.
Daley, known for his long-distance hook shot, is starting his fourth season with the Globetrotters. Schneider calls him the star of the team, but Daley says he's just "one of the stars."
"We have a mike on him," says Schneider, "and the whole game he's interacting with the crowd. He's hysterical, and he is an amazing player, an incredible entertainer. You can't keep your eyes off him when he's on the court."
Daley, 31, grew up in Panama and played high school basketball in Lakewood, near Los Angeles, and college ball at Azusa Pacific University in L.A. In a 2002 Gatorade commercial, he stood in as Michael Jordan's basketball-playing mirror image.
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Shane "Scooter" Christensen, left, and Kevin "Special K" Daley bring their basketball tricks to Arco Arena this week as the Globetrotters kick off their world tour. www.harlemglobetrottersmedia. com www.harlemglobetrottersmedia.com
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