Photo Credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty
It’s inconceivable nowadays that a basketball team could reach television superstardom without playing a single minute of an official NBA game. But back in the early '70s, The Harlem Globetrotters did just that. The Globetrotters starred in a Hanna Barbera animated kids' show which ran on CBS from 1970 to '73. In 1974, they had their own live-action show. Another animated version in 1979, The Super Globetrotters, cast the Globetrotters as undercover superheroes (inevitable, if you think about it).
And now this: The Cookie Jar Group (makers of Arthur, Doodlebops, and Caillou) is starting production on an all-new Harlem Globetrotters animated show. The details are sketchy, but it's known that they’re planning a full court press on the merchandising front, including vintage apparel, sporting goods, trading cards, interactive games and even more tie-ins if it becomes a hit. That may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but it’s actually more like putting the saddle before the horse.
When I was a kid, Globetrotters like Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal were superstars, even though they couldn’t sing or dance, didn’t play sports professionally, and had no fat endorsement contracts. They also had no website, no Facebook page, no mobile apps, no YouTube videos, and no way to even record their show! If you missed it, you missed it.
They did have a catchy whistle-heavy theme song (“Sweet Georgia Brown,” if you must know). And a near-supernatural expertise when it came to handling one or more thick-skinned rubber spheres known as basketballs.
I’m glad the Globetrotters are coming back. In this contemporary media universe of marginal talent, it’s nice to celebrate people who are still really good at something… even if you have to draw them out.