Globetrotters set to entertain and tug at the heartstrings
When the Harlem Globetrotters visit Fort Wayne on Dec. 29, they will bring more than 90 years of shenanigans, shots, and swishes.
The Spread Game tour, according to Barry Hardy of Globetrotters, will feature a new look, fresh initiatives, and fun that rekindles the team’s magic.
“It’s not just basketball. It’s not just that comedy is what we do for people in general,” Hardy said. “I tell that fan, just come in and create that memory for yourself, because it’s going to be matched with something you’ll never, ever forget.”
When it’s done right, the Globetrotters create once-in-a-lifetime moments for families and friends, he added.
“You’re going to see things that you have never seen,” Hardy said. “What we’ve learned over the years is it’s all your emotions throughout our show. I have seen people crying, people laughing, people hugging.”
That means access to players before and after the game, fan-friendly activities, and the special recipe of Globetrotter basketball.
It’s also about understanding the team’s trademark style and fiercely protecting it.
“It’s knowing the difference between what’s funny and what’s silly,” Hardy said. “We talk to our players because you don’t want to go out there and be silly doing stuff that a clown would do. We do stuff that’s good comedy and is not slapstick comedy. Good comedy is where people can laugh. So, there’s a fine line. We’re not clowns here, we’re royalty.”
He’s not ruling out the great switcheroo of water and confetti in a bucket that is all but a team trademark.
“You might just see the bucket come out sometime,” Hardy teased. “I don’t want to say more, but it may not happen this time around or it maybe it will. We don’t want to give away the magic just yet.”
Keeping People Coming Back
“We’ve switched away from the bucket of confetti for a few years now because we had to make sure we kept it fresh,” Hardy said. “That’s how we keep everybody coming back — new gags, things that make people laugh, amazing shots. We start adding things like that to our show, and it just keeps people coming year after year.”
The team is known for its comedy, but it’s real basketball. Hardy says the game is very close to what you see in a conventional game, but the Globetrotters make it unique.
He says they’ve become experts at the fundamentals and can push the expectations of what basketball is.
“Our players are just that skilled. They go for it,” Hardy said. “They work on these things every single day. They master it. That’s how we go into the game and make things happen.”
That includes behind-the-back passes, half-court hook shots, and thirty-foot jumpers.
The other not-so-secret special ingredient: the Globetrotters engage with and are actively dealing with fans of all ages.
“We’re accessible. We’re approachable,” Hardy said. “We are signing autographs, shaking hands, from the time the doors open till when they close.”
Getting Face Time with the Team
Hardy says attendees will have a hard time finding a more interactive sports event.
“It’s just something different,” he said. “It’s unlike any other team where if you go to an NBA game, you may not even get a chance to even get next to a player for a photo.”
That can just be enough to make a moment life-changing, according to Hardy.
“I met a young lady with cancer, she said she’s been in pain for a long time,” he said. “She came to our game in Philadelphia. I’ll never forget it. She said this is the first time in a long time that I didn’t feel any pain. She said, ‘I was laughing so hard that I didn’t feel any pain.’ When I hear things like that, I know what the Globetrotters are all about.”
Now in the role of Vice President of Player Personnel and Tour Development, he’s seen the team evolve.
He was a fan in the 1970s, played for the team in the 1990s, and later coached the team. He returned a few years ago to serve in upper management.
“I was captivated by it as a kid,” Hardy said. “There was just something about it and I just loved it. I still love it to this day.
At the team’s height of popularity, their games were often on national television. Players like Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, Sweet Lou Dunbar, and “Geese” Ausbie were household names. They were a hot commodity with their images and branding on toys, clothing, pinball machines, lunchboxes, even hosting their own TV show and appearing on animated shows such as Gilligan’s Island and Scooby-Doo.
Returning to New Glory Days
He says the organization is ready to return to that glory predicts the future will exceed even its golden days.
The pandemic kept the Globetrotters on the sidelines. It gave leaders a chance to look at what they offered fans and the game of basketball. Hardy said they looked at everything.
“We used that time to revamp the show,” Hardy said. “We actually have new uniforms. We came up with ways to be innovative and deliver something different.”
But no matter how much the team reinvents and reimagines, it’s still going to be the Globetrotters.
“We’re still going to tug at that heart, make you laugh,” Hardy said. “However, we are going to do it in such a way with basketball at a high level with great players and just making sure that we get proximity to every family that we can throughout the country, just with our schedules, just making ourselves accessible to everyone. We’re growing from being just that touring company to a brand new entertainment company.”