Family fun from basketball court jesters
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It’s a life Chandler “Bulldog” Mack could only dream of when growing up in Huntsville, Ala.
The former high school basketball standout and college athlete always wanted to play professionally. He’s now doing that as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
“What’s great about this is that it gives kids another avenue to think about outside your major three, the NBA, NFL, and MLB,” he said via phone while in the middle of the current Fan Powered World Tour. “This was something I had thought about but never really thought it would happen.”
That tour will stop at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3. Tickets are on sale now and range from $19 to $80.
In his brother’s footsteps
Mack’s path to the Globetrotters seemed to be predestined. His brother, Chris “Flash” Richardson, played for the team after college. Mack was in high school when Richardson died unexpectedly in 2008 of a brain aneurysm while on tour in Japan.
“I was fortunate enough to know some of the players growing up and around the time I was graduating from college, one of them gave me a call and asked if I’d be interested in coming out and being a Globetrotter. I said, ‘Of course! Who wouldn’t?! I’d be crazy not to,’” recalled Mack.
The 6’7” forward is working to fill his brother’s shoes and also blazing his own trail. He’s become known for his high-flying dunks, a feat he mastered while studying criminal justice at Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee. Playing for the Globetrotters, however, has been an adjustment.
“It’s tough to turn off that competitive side all the way because we’re still playing basketball, but you have to learn how to put on a show as well. It is entertainment,” he stressed. “We are all great basketball players, but learning the showmanship side is something you have to love. We’re the Globetrotters. We’re always smiling. We have to be bigger than life. This is a chance to show your personality. If you’re a dancer, this is your time to dance. If you like to tell jokes, the kids will go crazy.”
Mack has, in fact, wowed audiences with his dance moves, though he’s modest about his abilities.
“I used to break dance growing up as a kid. I still dance now, but I can’t do some of the things I used to be able to do. I have to stretch before I do any of those things,” he laughed.
Playing for the Globetrotters is exciting, but it also requires a lot of work. There’s the travel, which can be difficult, especially for those players who have families. They are on the road as much as six months of the year.
“In the off-season, there’s a lot of practice,” Mack said. “We’re constantly working on our ball handling and the trick shots that we do.
“During the season, we get to the gym three hours before the game and we practice every day. We’re working to make ourselves better so we put on the best show for the fans that we can every night. We don’t want to have any ‘off’ nights. We want to be perfect every night.”
Ambassadors of Goodwill
It’s not just the basketball that he loves, or his teammates, who are like family. He said he also immensely enjoys the connections he gets to make his with fans.
“The Harlem Globetrotters are known as ambassadors of goodwill,” he said. “We like to come to a community and go to the hospital, go to schools, and just give back to the community because those kids are one of the most important parts of our game. They keep us energetic, they’re entertaining, they keep us laughing. Kids, you know, will say anything, especially when they’re having a good time.”
As for the game itself, Mack said it’s sure to bring a smile to the faces in the crowd.
“You can expect to see some crazy, out-of-this-world dunks, number one,” he said. “Crazy four-point shots. We’re the only special team with a four-point line. That’s 30 feet from the basket, so it’s a one-of-a-kind shot.
“And of course, our showmen are the best showmen in the world. We’re constantly coming up with new jokes and new ways to entertain and interact with the fans. You’ll be engaged more during our games than any other professional sporting event. That’s what makes it so special.”