The Harlem Globetrotters Chat With Vocalo …
Written by Vocalo Radio on December 19, 2019
Did you know that the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in Illinois in 1926? It’s true!
Vocalo stopped to chat with Harlem Globetrotters Scooter Christensen and Hops Pearce about the history of the Globetrotters, learning that ball spin, and the joys of basketball …
Jill: Everybody on the team gets a good nickname. How did how did you come to yours and do you just dole them out once you get signed?
Scooter: Well it’s actually if you have a kind of a special trait that you know it kind of with that kind of goes with your personality. I mean like my friend here can jump out the gym so of course “Hops.” Now me on the other hand, my mom and dad named me scooter because when I was a baby I used to crawl with one leg and scoot the other. But you know, but then I played soccer too. And my name is Shane and there was another guy on the team. His name was Sean but they used to call me Sean and him Shane … My mom and dad got mad and said just call him scooter because he runs around all day and never gets tired. So that’s how my name stuck.
Jill: I want to talk about the Harlem Globetrotters origin story. I had no idea you were Chicago adjacent.
Scooter: Yeah it in 1926 by the guy, a guy by the name of Abe Saperstein. He started off with five guys. They went around barnstorming playing teams, anybody, anyplace anywhere. And he was a marketing genius back in those days. So back in the late 1920s when you thought of the word Harlem, we thought of African Americans and it was great jazz musicians back then. And so the team always traveled but he attached Globetrotters to the end of Harlem because he wanted everybody to think that they traveled the globe when really they played right down the street on the Southside of Chicago. So we get that a lot everyone thinks we are from Harlem but we are originally from Chicago.
Jill: Well, the two of you are neither from Harlem or Chicago … Hops you’re from Tuckahoe New York. Tell me about that city and how it fostered your love for the game of basketball.
Hops: You know, the village of tuckahoe is such a small village, we have a record high as far as our population 4500 people. So small, my high school couldn’t even fit within the village. And so everybody knows everybody, if you’re within this sports culture, then you know who you’re playing with, you grow up with who you’re playing with, things like that. And so, coming from Tuckahoe, it’s about 20 minutes outside of New York City. So a lot of times when I tell people that I’m from New York, they automatically assume the city and Manhattan. But growing up in Tuckahoe, which is moreso a suburban area. Versus growing up in a completely congested urban style of Manhattan. It’s really a lot different. The pace is slower. The people are nicer. People are definitely nicer. And we just, in my opinion, we we pay closer attention to the things that we do on a daily basis. Whereas in the city things are so fast paced, it’s like hi and bye … you give this little bit of attention and then you’re on to the next thing. So when when my story came out about coming to play for the Globetrotters, it was really a beautiful thing to see my community come together and to really celebrate a tuckahoe product! And they continuously do that even to this day, so it’s really cool.
Jill: Scooter you’re from Las Vegas. That’s right. Yeah, y’all. Y’all got an NBA team eventually.
Scooter: Hopefully! We have a WNBA team and they’re great. The Aces! Yeah, they’re tough. They’re tough.
Jill: When you growing up in the desert, how did that affect your playing?
Scooter: You know, I’m used to that dry heat. You know, I’m on I’m in Chicago, so I’m kind of cold out here right now. But other than that, I mean, but I just grew up like this any other kid man you know, have basketball, dreams and aspirations. Never went to a Globetrotter game as a kid you know … first time I ever saw them play was on the Scooby Doo cartoon. But I always had aspirations just to see how far could take my basketball talent you know. God blessed me and put me in the right position to get looked at you know. Before the Globetrotters I was an assistant video coordinator in the practice play for the Phoenix Suns NBA team. They used to have pickup games on the weekend. I didn’t know that the organization was based out of Phoenix at that time. They come to a pickup game. They see me play, invite me to the camp and I’ve been with the team for 15 years now. So right place right time for me. It’s just been such a blessing.
Jill: Scooter Christiansen and Hops Pierce, tell me about the learning curve that exists when you join a team like the Harlem Globetrotters … going from one style of play to to this style of play.
Hops: I think the whole dynamic of that is very interesting because scooter and I we are of different generations … of life and the globetrotters
Jill: Did you just call us old?!
Hops: Scooter’s got a lot of time in. And so for me as a second year player, I know the learning curve for me was super extensive. When I got to training camp, I was the only rookie that couldn’t spin the ball. My coach Lou came to me, and he was like, despite all of the other talent that you have, you’re going to have to learn this before you leave here. And so within two days, he gave me some advice on what I was doing wrong with it, got it down pat, brought my ball back to the hotel room every single night until I got it. And so that was probably the number one thing that I took away as far as learning a completely new thing that I wasn’t able to do to, then growing in camp to being able to fully do it.
But other things along with that whole learning curve is … How to make sure that you take advantage of the charisma that you have and put smiles on other people’s faces. I would like to consider myself as a naturally genuine person. And sometimes it’s hard to deliver that and make sure that it really connects with the people that are watching you. Wherever you are, whether you’re on the court, whether you’re in a studio, it doesn’t matter. The point is that universal message of trying to spread that joy and happiness It doesn’t matter what language we speak. So that was really the number one thing that I took away from the veterans, the coaches, the DJs like everybody in the organization
Jill: When you get to experience that join a large scale in a basketball stadium from you know, babies to grandmas to great grandmas Is that something that you in maybe the top three things of being a Harlem Globetrotter?
Scooter: That is the best feeling to give somebody is a smile. It’s the best feeling. Because, you know, we we don’t know, we’re regular people you know, we see fans that come to the game. We don’t know what kind of day they’re having, you know, but we know if we see you at the globetrotter game, we’re going to be making you smile and laugh You know, just for an hour, hour and a half you know, and it’s the best it’s the best gift that we can give. And the reason why we keep that tradition alive because the people that came before us, Marcus Haynes, Curly Neil, Sweet Lou Dunbar Meadowlark Lemon, all these guys were doing this back then. And then when the parents come, it’s like the parents are more excited than the kids sometimes because they remember when they were little how they felt. So now we’re giving that same joy to their kids and trying to keep that tradition alive. But just think if they were treating people bad back then, the tradition is broke because when people hear Harlem Globetrotters, they light up every single time and that’s such a good thing to be a part of.
Jill: Let’s talk about the games. You guys have been at this for such a long time, and you’re still bringing something new every year. Let’s talk about these world records. Team has 21 world records, what records are left? And how do you plan on setting yourselves up for success?
Hops: So the first part of that question, there are a lot of basketball world records that people just are not aware of. But they’re very much paid attention to within the basketball community. And so we have players of all different talents within the game. So I think that’s why we’re able to set so many records is because we just have strength in every single area of the game.
Scooter: And plus, when you come to the game, you know, you know, pushing the limits, this is what we’re doing, you know, you’re going to be seeing record breaking shots. You know, I always tell people it’s not your average. basketball game. We do a great job of mixing basketball and show basketball and comedy. I mean, we’re probably the most interactive professional team. I mean, we even have a fifth quarter this year. Yeah, we’ll be taking about 25 to 30 minutes, signing autographs, taking pictures, giving high fives, all kinds of stuff. I don’t know whether professional team does that will be take a rope around the court and just give back to our fans, you know, so and they remember that, you know, that’s probably the best part.
Jill: I want to talk about this glow in the dark basketball warm up. It couldn’t be me. That sounds like a real good way to get hit in the head with a basketball. But you are trained professionals. What about this are you excited about?
Hops: I think this is one of the best additions to our game. Because it’s already a thing of beauty to watch the magic circle before the game starts. And it’s kind of like when we congregate in at center court and We go ahead and do our ball handling and you see some amazing tricks. But to see that action glow in the dark it’s just a whole different dynamic and your perspective of it changes and it’s really cool to see and
Scooter: I can’t wait to see people’s faces and be like what and like what’s going on?
Hops: The aesthetic of something like that is like it’s hard to even imagine that it’s like you just have to really experience that. And on top of that, we have world class ball handlers. And this year we brought in a new ball handler … he is definitely the textbook definition of world class. His name is Dazzle. He is our first player from Poland. All right, and I can assure you, you will see things done with the basketball that you have never seen. I will bet you any amount
Jill: I’m seriously just sitting here trying not to giggle like a child. This is the the 10th anniversary of the four point shot. If folks aren’t familiar with a four point shot, what is it? And how likely am I to miss it completely?
Scooter: The four point shot is 35 feet away from the rim. I mean, it’s like maybe a couple steps behind the NBA three point line. I mean, if you ever seen Steph Curry play it’s kind of Steph Curry ranges. We got guys on a team that can knock this down consistently. It’s fun, it’s just practice, it’s like anything else in life. But when people see it, they’re going to they’re going to explode … they are gonna love it.
Listen to the full conversation:
Edited for Length and Clarity by: Seamus Doheny
Audio Producer: Fyodor Sakhnovski
Shot by: Manuel Martinez