The home of Central Michigan men’s and women’s basketball received a visit from one of the most famous basketball teams in history Monday night.
The world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters drew hundreds from the local community with their high-flying acrobatics and comical shtick inside a nearly-packed McGuirk Arena.
Parents, children and basketball fans from all over mid-Michigan watched, and in some cases participated, in a spectacle unlike any CMU has hosted in recent memory.
“This is so cool,” said 10-year-old Micah Mielke of Oakley. “I was having fun and then when (the Globetrotter) pulled me out (of the crowd) I was like, this is odd.”
Mielke was drawn from the audience to make the game-winning bucket for the Globies. While he stood in front of the basket, the entire Globetrotter team knelt and prayed that he made the basket.
On the court, the game was emceed by Globie forward Chris “Handles” Franklin, who told jokes, gave away prizes and kept fans on the edge of their seats with sleek passes and dribble-drives.
During one bit, Handles jokingly stole a female fan’s purse and offered it to his coach, Barry Hardy.
“I thought it was yours, it had your name on it,” Handles said.
Hardy said the atmosphere at McGuirk Arena was unique compared to the hundreds of venues the Globetrotters perform in each year.
“They were really energized, which is surprising for such a small group,” Hardy said. “It’s all about the kids. I watched the Globetrotters growing up and I remember what it meant to me. All of our guys are like that and try to keep that in mind each time we do a show.”
Matt Zymczak of Mount Pleasant brought his 7-year-old daughter, Megan, to McGuirk Arena for the first time for the event. He called the Globetrotters’ visit the latest example of how CMU serves as a “major asset” to his community.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my daughter,” Zymczak said. “Even with the weather, we had no doubts about coming out tonight.”
Temperatures dropped below zero degrees by 10 p.m. Tuesday night, but inside, the gymnasium was heating up with basketball action.
During the show, fans tweeted in their vote as to which “rule of the game,” would be changed – a staple of the Globetrotters performance. Fans in Mount Pleasant voted for rules such as the trick-shot challenge and 4-point play.
Globetrotter “Flight Time” Lang dunked a ball through the net after passing the ball to himself using his feet.
“With us, it doesn’t matter if we are playing in front of 15,000 people or 500,” Lang said. “Small arenas and college atmospheres are always a little different. You can get a little bit more hands-on with a group this size. It’s nice.”
After the show, Handles signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans, who he called “the real star(s) of the show.”
“I wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter since I was a little kid. I never wanted to do anything else,” Handles said. “As a child, people told me that there is no way I could make that happen. I like to speak to kids and tell them that dreams can come true.
“You can do anything you put your mind to with a little bit of hard work.”