When audience members leave the scene of a Harlem Globetrotters game grinning from ear to ear, it means the players did their job.
It means a little bit more when it’s a kid’s first time and he or she had no idea what to expect.
“It’s what we want to do when we take the court,” Nate “Big Easy” Lofton said.
For a number of people, Monday was their first time witnessing the comical and athletic performance known worldwide as the Harlem Globetrotters. And if the audience cheers were any indication, everyone who came to the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center enjoyed their visit.
The Globetrotters defeated International Elite 86-73 to continue the team’s streak of more than 24,000 victories. However, the score was a sideshow to the laughter and smiles of the fans. A number of them walked into the trade center not knowing what to expect.
“I just heard of them a couple weeks ago,” said Chattanooga resident Jake Bratton, 12. “I’ve only been to one basketball game in my life.”
His uncle, Justin Clisby, did not ruin it for Bratton, who said at halftime that he had no idea the game would be what it was.
“(The Globetrotters players) act like they would in school,” Bratton said. “It’s like the referees are the teachers and they are acting up when the refs aren’t looking.”
Each minute of the game included some sort of amusing trick or comical act. From pulling down the shorts of International Elite players, to tricking the opponents into shooting a free throw with an inflatable ball that immediately rises to the roof, to “Bull” Bullard sitting on the opponent’s rim and blocking any shot attempt, the usual antics of the Globetrotters were well in play.
“They’re just kids at heart,” Clisby said.
Jordan Harrison, 9, of Chatsworth, also experienced his first Globetrotters game.
His favorite parts were the dunks when the players hung on the rim, as well as the times in the middle of each quarter when the Globetrotters would perform skits.
“When they danced and Globey (the team’s mascot) started falling right in front of me,” Harrison said.
It wasn’t just cutting up, though. Each Globetrotter possession — including an alley-oop dunk on the first touch — showcased some of the entertaining ball-handling tricks and creative dunks that have become associated with the team name.
All in all, it was more than some anticipated. Bratton even said he somewhat expected a resemblance to the only professional basketball game he had previously seen — the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Atlanta Hawks. But Bratton was pleasantly surprised when it was much different.
“I heard they were hilarious but I didn’t expect them to be goofing off and doing tricks the entire game,” he said.
Said Chatsworth’s Daniel Peeples, “It’s pure entertainment.”
It wasn’t just an event for kids to enjoy, either. Peeples, 28, also was experiencing the Globetrotters for the first time in person. He said he had seen them on television before, but the live experience was different.
“It was a lot more than I expected,” he said. “I think the whole thing is very family friendly, and everyone should take their family and get the chance to see this.”
When people say how much they enjoyed coming, it reminds Bullard of why he is a Globetrotter.
“They saw what we’re made of,” he said. “Each game, you never know what to expect.”
Bullard never attended a Globetrotters game as a fan; his first time was in 2008, and he vividly recalls the experience.
“I had never seen them before, so my first time was me playing in the actual games,” he said. “The first day on the bus, I was star struck.”
Making fans star struck is what the players want to do, and when they leave their first game with smiles, it means everything.
“The best thing,” Lofton said, “is seeing the kids’ smiling faces when we come onto the court and then when we leave.”