With some slick moves, a nifty crossover dubbed “The Cyclone”, and a determination to be the best among the boys. Fatima “TNT” Maddox of the Harlem Globetrotters, the organization’s ninth female player, has found tranquility in her role of professional athlete, good will ambassador, and role model to millions.
Maddox, now a fifth-year Globetrotter vet said her role as a professional female athlete in the organization has been both an honor and obligation:
“It’s an honor to just be on the team. To be the ninth woman in our 90-year history that comes with a level of responsibility, but I think it’s a positive responsibility.”
As the epitome of the Globetrotter’s mantra for goodwill, Maddox uses her position to not only spin a few tricks on the court but to participate in a plethora of community outreach programs.
Promoting anti-bullying campaigns, visiting children in hospitals, volunteering at soup kitchens, and sponsoring children through World Vision-a humanitarian organization fighting poverty and injustice. are just a few things she has done.
The Colorado Springs native credits her playing time under three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley at Temple University for being an example of balance between being a spitfire on the court while exemplifying compassion for others.
On the court, Maddox shines as an emblem for female empowerment.
Though Maddox was a track and field star-setting state records at her time at Mesa Ridge High School, basketball never escaped her heart from the time she first played at 13 during a neighborhood pick-up game.
After her time at Temple, Maddox continued to play overseas, spending a few years in Sweden when she received an invitation to tryout for the Harlem Globetrotters in Philadelphia on her return to the states.
As the organization’s ninth female player, Maddox was a sight for sore eyes for Globetrotter fans as the last female was Jolette Law, who was on the 1990 squad. Maddox told SFBay:
“I had no clue a woman had ever because of the 20 year gap. So I tried out and it worked out for me and slowly but surely I started to realize how big of a deal it was to be the only girl on the team when I first started out.”
While continuing to reminisce on the start of her career, Maddox signed basketballs for young, impressionable girls and boys in Oakland:
“I had a lot of little girls come up to me and thanking me for inspiring them. And I had a little boys come up too, so it was a big deal to me.”
On the night of the show, cheers erupted from the crowds as Beyonce’s song “Run the World (Girls)” introduced the star “TNT” and continued as other girl-power pop anthems blasted over speakers when she stepped foot on the court, scoring for her team time after time again.
A force to be reckoned with on the court against the opposition, the World All-Stars, TNT also plays a hand in the famous comedic antics the Globetrotters are known for cracking jokes, smack-talking, and switching out the basketball for a beach ball when the All-Stars get a free-throw opportunity.
Though crowds don’t see her back on the court after the referee rules her out, Maddox’s shining moment comes during the show when she picks a young girl to join her out on the Oracle Arena floor, a ritual she performs throughout the tour.
The young girl, clearly overjoyed at standing next to the star, is shown how to spin the ball on her fingertips with the assistance of TNT.
The moment is sweetened as TNT speaks out against the naysayers of female participation in sports, shouting “People told me I’d never be a Harlem Globetrotter, and look at me now!” ensuing vast acclamation from men and women, old and young.
The ritual, something as simple as bringing a little girl down to half-court, means more than words can describe for Maddox:
“Bringing a little girl out, you never know, that could change the path of their life. Just to see another girl doing something that they’re ‘not supposed to be doing’. It’s important that I’m doing that every night.”
As for plans for the future, Maddox told SFBay she’s perfectly content on the path she is on, aside from gaining more global recognition in order to further her message:
“I’m trying to get more recognition. Globally, nationally, just to encourage the world to chase your dream no matter what people say, how big your dream is, just chase it. Because you never know.”
For female athletes, Maddox hopes that through her exposure as a Globetrotter, more girls will want to participate in sports. The more participation, the more media coverage, the more women athletes can build and expand their brand like their male counterparts, she suggests.
But for right now, Maddox wants to keep encouraging girls to play sports or excel in what they wish:
“I want girls to have more encouragement, that goes a long way with people. Even the smallest thing really resonates with people. If I could do anything I would encourage girls to chase their dreams, whatever it is.”
Maddox also encourages on never giving up on dreams. Because of her determination, her dream of becoming a professional athlete rang true, a message she also wants to convey to the youth of the world.
And look at her now, she’s a Harlem Globetrotter.