Harlem Globetrotters dazzle Oracle Arena

Mix the genius of Barnum and Bailey, the style of the ABA, the zaniness of Penn and Teller, and the end result is the Harlem Globetrotters’ basketball show.

The squad, best described as a circus that uses basketball as the apparatus to bridge an old-fashioned show to constant modernity, put on two shows at Oracle Arena Saturday as part of their annual tour of the west coast.

Nate “Big Easy” Lofton, the team ringmaster, led the squad to an 82-78 victory over the World All-Stars, in a game that included costume malfunctions, jokes, and enough tom-foolery to delight at least 1,000 fans in attendance and put special smiles on the faces of a few kids.

Photos by Kalama Hines/SFBay

A large part of the show is to include members of the crowd, like an elementary school-aged boy who made a basket during a game, and did a few dances with members of the roster before being presented with a ball signed by the team.

Parents, too, had their day on the floor of Oracle Arena.

Lofton borrowed the purse of a woman sitting courtside, one half of a 12-year marriage named Jan, and used it as a prop during a set of jokes that were easy enough on the ears of youngsters but still funny to the mature audience.

Jan’s husband Tom received marital advice from Lofton to close the set, which included enough intimate dancing to make the grown man blush.

Lofton isn’t a stranger to the big stage. He’s been on The Amazing Race, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, and has made cameos on other major television shows.

The showman is crucial to the show — exactly what the Globetrotters pride themselves on being — but not the only integral part of it.

Others like Scooter Christensen and Handles Franklin bring undeniable excitement. Flair is the main attraction, and while these aren’t NBA-ready prospects, they all have their tricks that combine for enough entertainment for the price of admission to seem like a deal for even the most extreme of cheapskates.

Christensen holds the Guinness world record for spinning a basketball on his nose for nearly eight seconds. Franklin holds a record in the book for a 60-foot kneeling basketball shot that was made backwards.

Lofton holds his own world record as well, with a made 50-foot hook shot that he took while blindfolded.

While they are known for their fun-loving antics, the Harlem Globetrotters have also been doing some good things in the community.

They recently played wheelchair basketball at King Middle School in Berkeley while promoting the message that anyone can do amazing things with the right preparation.

A similar message was voiced in Oakland Saturday night by Fatima Maddox, better known as TNT, who took the microphone at halftime and told the crowd:

“People told me I’d never be a Harlem Globetrotter, and look at me now!”

The show was as wholesome as it was fun, and it was difficult to find a stern face in the building.

The Globetrotters return to Oakland for two shows on Saturday January 23rd, while also making stops in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Modesto, Fresno and San Jose over the next week.

The show is for everybody, and tickets can be found at Ticketmaster and on Stubhub.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Warriors.