Basketball royalty trots into Coliseum
Harlem Globetrotters prepared to showcase comedy, shooting skills
A member of The World Famous Harlem Globetrotters for more than a decade, Julian McClurkin has traveled the world throughout his professional basketball career, making it to Fort Wayne a few times.
He and the rest of the world’s winningest team will bring the Harlem Globetrotters 2023 World Tour to Memorial Coliseum the day after Christmas, Dec. 26.
Finding his way
Look up the word perseverance and you could find a picture of the 6-foot-8 McClurkin.
McClurkin, who goes by the nickname Zeus, told Whatzup that success in the basketball world didn’t come easy, but he kept reaching for his dream until he achieved it.
“I got cut from sixth grade all the way to 10th grade,” he said about his struggles trying to make his school’s basketball team in Columbus, Ohio. “Basketball was a tough sport for me to crack into, but it was the only sport I really loved.”
He was good at just about everything else, he said, including swimming, tennis, football, soccer, and golf, but the basketball league his school competed in was so competitive, coaches did not want to gamble on him.
That is, until nature had a say in it.
“I had a little growth spurt, and I finally made my first team,” he said.
After finding his way onto the court and tasting a little bit of success, another obstacle presented itself: People thought he was too nice.
“I found out that basketball requires this demonstrative demeanor and this mean streak that a lot of my coaches were trying to get me to have,” he said. “They said I didn’t have that killer instinct. But I wanted to prove them wrong, and that’s what I did.
“Now, playing for the Globetrotters, they literally pay me to be the nice person that I am, so it really worked out for me.”
If there is anything to learn from his story, McClurkin said he hopes people can see “there’s a place in the world for you to be who God created you to be. Be yourself and be coachable.”
By being coachable, he got to play more than some of his teammates during his final two years in high school and in college at North Carolina A&T State University.
“I got a lot of minutes over guys that probably had more talent or experience than I did because I am an excellent listener,” he said. “I could execute plays very well and coaches would put me out there ahead of everybody else.”
Now one of the most decorated athletes on the Globetrotters roster, McClurkin holds several Guinness World Records, including most slam dunks in one minute, most blindfolded slam dunks in one minute, most bounced three-pointers in one minute, and most behind-the-back three-pointers.
The records, games, and traveling are fun parts of his job, but it’s the history of the team and the memories they help make for people that is really satisfying.
“When people see that red, white, and blue jersey, that basketball, or if I’m just wearing a shirt that says ‘Harlem Globetrotters,’ it immediately will bring a smile to a person’s face who may not know me at all, because they remember a time when they went to a game with their parents or grandparents and I get a chance to impact somebody’s life just by wearing a shirt,” he said.
Finding right player
Like any professional team, the Harlem Globetrotters have scouts that go out and find players, whether it’s at the college level, professional leagues, or even overseas.
“If we see talent, we reach out to see if they want an opportunity to try out,” McClurkin said.
While they are looking for skilled players, the Globetrotters go a step or two further than most teams in their evaluations because of their unique situation.
“We are looking at other things, like personality, creativity, individuality, and all-around being a good person, because there’s a lot that goes into being a Globetrotter,” he said.
The Harlem Globetrotters have been entertaining audiences nearly 100 years. Their events are one-part sports and one-part comedic routine, adding up to a family-friendly show.
“You don’t have to be a basketball fan to enjoy the game,” McClurkin said. “You actually don’t need to know anything about basketball, except that when the ball goes in the hoop, it’s a good thing.”
Putting on a show
While the show is just a few hours long, the preparation begins several hours beforehand.
“Our talent is so creative,” McClurkin said. “We do a practice before the game where we find different areas to shoot the ball from and also to find out about the culture of each city, to see what local staples there are that we can mention in the show or work into the game. We give them that freedom to operate that way.”
With the game’s outcome mostly predetermined, the goal is to entertain and finish with the “good guys” getting the win, much to the chagrin of their opponent, the Washington Generals. However, McClurkin said there will definitely be some competitive moments, complete with “high-flying slam dunks and set plays, but you’re also probably going to see us get up in the crowd and do trick shots or stop the game and shoot a half-court shot. I assure you, though, there’s only one way to make those shots and that’s skill. That’s all real right there. That’s all us.”
The world needs the Harlem Globetrotters right now, McClurkin said, because when the team visit a city, it gives families an opportunity to get out of the house and spend some time laughing and enjoying a few hours together.
“I think it’s good medicine,” he said. “Whether you’re 9 years old or 99 years old, you can expect to have a good time with your family and with your friends. Leave the woes and the worries about what’s going on in the world outside the arena doors, and come on inside to have a good time with us.”