June 7, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
In 1972 I was a tween living in suburban Atlanta, and my tiny world was basketball mad. The Atlanta Hawks, coached by Richie Guerin — whose daughter was in my class — had just signed star rookie Pete Maravich, a shaggy, flamboyant jackrabbit who was boyish enough for me to have a crush on. I gazed at pictures of Maravich in the Atlanta Constitution, admiring his intensity and his bangs. I played Horse and practiced free throws with neighborhood kids and longed for calf muscles to fill out my knee-high jock socks. I wished that I was friends with Kerri Guerin so I could go to a Hawks game.
That didn’t happen, but my parents did take me and my siblings to a Harlem Globetrotters game at the brand-new Omni Coliseum in downtown Atlanta. It was amazing! Aside from hearing the phrase “nosebleed seats” for the first time, and thinking it was the wittiest thing ever, it was my first encounter with star power. Back then, Meadowlark Lemon was as famous as the astronauts. The enormous crowd was the biggest thing I’d ever been part of. We saw everything we’d seen on TV and it was just as great. The lazy, jazzy Magic Circle warmup. The sight gags. And the crazy ball handling! You could see where Maravich got his style.
It wasn’t only Maravich, though. There would be no NBA if it hadn’t been for the Globetrotters. The players in the all-white NBL (the association’s predecessor) didn’t fly like cranes to stuff the ball, they didn’t take shots from half-court, they barely attempted a hook shot. A series of exhibition games between the NBL’s Minnesota Lakers and the Globetrotters in 1948 and 1949, where it was obvious that the capacity audiences were there to see the Globetrotters, led to a bit of tentative clowning by the Lakers. White Americans went from not being able to deal with barely clothed black bodies playing basketball against whites to lining up at 3 a.m. for tickets.
When the Globetrotters’ Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton integrated the NBA by signing with the New York Knicks in 1950, he not only made the game more exciting, he made it possible for professional basketball to generate infinitely more money. For the Globetrotters, the NBA exhibition games eventually came to an end and pop culture extended its sticky finger.
Thanks to television, they became part of my generation’s cultural vocabulary, appearing on two animated series of their own, plus the New Scooby Doo Movies program. In a 2005 documentary, Senator Barack Obama solemnly says that watching the Globetrotters was like watching jazz musicians. Barry! I doubt that was your reaction when you were watching the Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine show in your grandma’s living room. They were our grown-up pals. They were warm, and magical, and slick, and — like the best clowns — so, so reliable.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | Libi Rose on THE ENIAC TEAM | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Mimi Lipson on THE RUNAWAYS | Jordan Ellenberg on BOURBAKI | Michael Campochiaro on THE SUICIDE SQUAD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Douglas Wolk on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACKLIPS PERFORMANCE CULT.
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