AUGUSTA — Nathan Love pulled the headband over his eyes, ran to the child-sized hoop set up at midcourt, and cooly made his dunk. A half hour before the Harlem Globetrotters took the Augusta Civic Center court, Love, 10, of Belgrade was part of the show.
That’s the thing about the Harlem Globetrotters. Everybody is part of the show.
“They play really hard, and they’re willing to make a show for us,” Love said.
What about the World All-Stars, the Globetrotters’ opponent for the evening?
“The Globetrotters have to destroy them,” Love said.
This is a fact of life when you take the court night after night against the Harlem Globetrotters. Nobody is there to cheer for you. Nobody buys a ticket to see the World All-Stars. When you wear the black and white All-Stars uniform, your role is purely sacrificial. You get dunked on, you get your shorts pulled down, and you’re forgotten.
Like the red, white and blue basketball and bucket full of confetti, the World All-Stars are props in the greater show. For anybody with any sort of competitive streak, that has to be at least mildly frustrating.
The World All-Stars are not allowed to do interviews, but if body language is an indicator, they play their role with enthusiasm, even when every shot they make is greeted by a smattering of boos. They take part in some of the routines, and sit quietly on their bench when the Globetrotters do their thing with fans on the court.
Before the game, the public address announcer described the World All-Stars as “rumored to be the toughest team the Globetrotters will face in their 88-year history.”
The World All-Stars took the court to polite applause.
With a fog machine providing atmosphere, the Globetrotters took the court to an ovation.
Landon Gillis, 10, and his 6-year old brother Ethan watched the game from their baseline seats. It didn’t take long for the Gillis brothers to become Globetrotter fans.
“They do all the tricks with the ball,” Landon said.
“When they do a bunch of tricks and they dunk, it’s funny,” Ethan said.
How about the All-Stars? Did they do anything to win over the Gillis boys.
What do you think?
“They don’t do anything cool,” Landon said.
How can you compete with the players who can dunk the basketball with their feet?
The Washington Generals, a predecessor to the World All-Stars, had a losing streak of thousands of games. The score has always been secondary to the Globetrotters experience. If you see Bruce Springsteen in concert, there are songs you expect to hear. If you see the Globetrotters play basketball, you expect to see them win.
You’re not going to remember the score, but you’ll remember dancing to “YMCA” with a few thousand people between the third and fourth quarters.
The Globetrotters trailed by two points after three quarters, but pulled away in the fourth. They made 4-point shots. They stood on the rim to prevent All-Stars shots from falling. They roasted the refs. The Globetrotters entertained. The natural order was reinforced.
When the game was over, the Globetrotters took a bow at center court and prepared to sign autographs. The World All-Stars quickly shuffled off the court. Nobody noticed.