Tricksters in the Madhouse: Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948 by John Christgau

By John Christgau

In February 1948 the brand-new, all-white Minneapolis Lakers have been arguably the best basketball workforce in the USA, favourite to win the realm specialist Basketball event later that yr. in the meantime the Harlem Globetrotters, on the middle of black basketball, have been using their very own outstanding 103-game profitable streak. top identified to white audiences for his or her clowning and comedy, the Globetrotters weren't even regarded as within the related league with the strong Lakers. So whilst those powerhouses met for the 1st time—on February 19, 1948, earlier than an viewers of eighteen thousand in Chicago Stadium—basketball lovers in all places have been in for an eye-opening performance. Tricksters within the Madhouse is the tale of this pivotal assembly, a video game that might encapsulate the starting to be racial tensions of the period, fairly the fight of black americans to achieve legitimacy within the segregated international of activities. Play-by-play, John Christgau recreates the heart-stopping online game that will surprise white basketball lovers raised to view black athletes in separate and unequal phrases. via in-depth interviews and broad study, Christgau brings this severe match-up to existence. through taking a look past the drama within the enviornment to the wider occasions of the day, he additionally places the sport in its sociological context, revealing how, at the same time it enacted the racial inequities of the time, this important video game represented an enormous step towards equality.

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His glasses taped to his head now, with tangles of thick black hair, he could have been a double for the silent-screen comedian Harold Lloyd, and he was just as conspicuous on a basketball floor. Two scouts from the athletic department at DePaul University noticed his size and cornered him after a Quigley game. What were his intentions for college, they wanted to know. He told them he intended to study to become a priest. But by the fall of 1941 he knew that his calling was basketball, not the priesthood, and he enrolled at DePaul University.

He was only twenty-two years old. He was the Kangaroo Kid, and stories about his jumping ability, fed by sportswriters who measured one of his driving basketball leaps at seventeen feet, bordered on the mythical. But with the world at war, he enlisted in the Coast Guard, and by June 1944 he and Ari were engaged. Two weeks before the wedding, his mother died suddenly. He had nowhere to call home 27 First Quarter now and no money. Only his skill at basketball seemed to separate him from those sad Salvation Army indigents for whom he had once raised money by playing his trumpet.

4 It all made him as mysterious and powerful as High John de Conquer, promising laughter and hope. Meanwhile, white audiences especially failed to realize that beneath his comedic talent and that happy-go-lucky court clown lay the gifts of a magnificent athlete. Beneath that ropy, Raggedy Ann body there were lightning reflexes and the instincts of an All-Star. He could shoot as well as anybody. When he wasn’t playing the flatfoot pivot clown, wandering the floor as if his feet were stuck in glop, he had half a dozen moves around the basket—a jump hook shot that was years ahead of its time, his unstoppable windmill hook, spin moves, leaping fallaways that required a delicate touch, and just the opposite, power plays where he went right over the top of his opponents and strong-armed the shot.

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