All sports have thrown up great teams, but can any really hold a candle to the legend that is the Harlem Globetrotters?
For sheer volume of wins, worldwide reputation and stellar line-up of star names*, they surely can’t be touched.
And even if you do put up a decent argument against the Globetrotters, they hold a trump card. They are the only team (surely) to ever to have their own cartoon series!
Just why they have stood the test of time and won a place in the affections of sports lovers the world over was in evidence in front of a vocal crowd at the arena.
High performance, high jumps and high jinks are what make the Globetrotters special.
The names may no longer be household, but the athletic prowess and laugh a minute shenanigans of the new breed of Globetrotter harked back to the days of Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.
We had kids being dragged onto court to take shots, Globetrotters stealing bags from the audience and players actually climbing the equipment and dropping through the hoops themselves.
And even though the team were playing for laughs, there were some amazing skills on show with skyhook dunks and shots raining through the hoops from all angles.
The crowd at Newcastle absolutely loved it.
Football’s had Real Madrid’s Galacticos and Manchester United’s Class of 92, but they’d have to go some to match the Globetrotters’ achievements.
Founded in 1927, the Globetrotters today may be considered pure entertainment, they did in fact win the basketball World Championships in 1940.
And while football may hail Arsenal’s The Invincibles of 2003/4, who went an entire league season without losing a game, the Globetrotters had a winning streak that lasted, ahem, 20 years!
That’s an eye-watering 8,829 games between 1975 and 1995 without losing. Phenomenal, though it helps if you’re picking your own opponents.
And at the Metro Radio Arena, the opponents were a hand-picked bunch of bad guys from around the world. All dressed in black, naturally.
The World All-Stars, lead by a manager who got the crowd hissing from the start with his “Hello Sunderland” greeting, were no match for the Globies.
But even they were almost eclipsed by the maddest inflatable mascot in Christendom, the bizarre Big G, who had the kids in stitches with a dance routine mostly involving smashing his face onto the floor.
After some fiddling with the scoreboard and a bucket-load of cheating, the Globetrotters looked to be heading for a rare defeat.
But with seconds to spare, the Globetrotters snatched an amazing winning basket right at the death.
In this their 90th year, the Globetrotters chalked up another win on the court but an even bigger one in the hearts of their young fans just discovering how much fun sport can, and should, be. Here’s to the next 90.
(*Honorary members of the Harlem Globetrotters through the years include Bob Hope, Whoopi Goldberg and two Popes).