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Harlem Globetrotters trot to the Lion nation

By Jonathan Rhodes
On March 15, 2017

Nate Lofton posing with bsketball Head Coach Jay Ladner. Lofton played in the University Center for the first time in 12 years and he will recieve his degree from the university this May.
Jonathan Rhodes/The Lion’s Roar

Former Lion basketball player and current Harlem Globetrotter Nate “Big Easy” Lofton returned to the university along with the world famous Globetrotters to dazzle and entertain in the University Center. This was the first time the Globetrotters have visited Hammond and Lofton’s first time back since the end of his college basketball career.

“It feels great to be back,” said Lofton. “A lot of great people here in Hammond. It’s a family atmosphere and I play with a team that is all about making families happier. So, I’m happy to return and to show what I have been doing for the last 12 years.”

Before the show on Mar. 6, Lofton talked to the current Lions basketball team about persevering to reach their goal of a second NCAA Tournament appearance.

“I had dinner with the team and encouraged the guys to keep going and keep pushing,” said Lofton. “You can’t do nothing overnight. It took Coach Kennedy a couple of years to get the program where he wanted it to be and I think it was his third or fourth year when I came in. I just was part of the process. We were blessed to have great guys who wanted to be a great team, and I think they have the same thing here. I can’t wait to watch them in the tournament one day.”

It was announced prior to the game that Lofton was being honored and he will walk this upcoming graduation ceremony to receive his degree.

“It was actually fun to go back and do homework,” said Lofton. “The reason I went back was, before my dad passed away in 2009, he said the one thing he wanted was for us to be great fathers, me and my brother, but I never finished my degree. So, I made a promise to him, and I want to make sure that I fulfill it. Also, as my children get older, I want them to see that education was important, so I don’t just tell them to do it I can say I did it, and their mother got a doctorate. So, it runs in the family.”

The Globetrotters have been mixing entertainment and basketball in unique ways for 91 years. Through dancing, teasing the referee or sprinkling water on the crowd, the Globetrotters put on a show that everyone can enjoy.

“We are family entertainment,” said Lofton. “You come to watch a basketball game but it’s entertainment also. We get to interact with the crowd and do some amazing things that have never been done before. We also do the things that you expect at a Globetrotters’ game. I think we are the greatest traveling family show on earth and what you saw on Monday night was an example.”

The Globetrotters might make Hammond a usual stopover for their tours.

“Hopefully the turnout was great enough so that the Globetrotters can come back and do another show,” said Lofton. “We will let them know that it was a great show and that they should have been there.”

Lofton’s wife, son and other family members came to watch him perform in the University Center. Lofton was glad to finally return home and meet with family and friends after traveling around the world with the Globetrotters. 

“I’ve been in over 90 countries, I’ve been on ‘Amazing Race’ three times. I’ve been around the world and did a lot but there is nothing like home,” said Lofton. “There is nothing like getting  boudin, crawfish, some jambalaya and just people saying ‘How you doing, baby?’ It’s awesome to interact with the people and see my family.”

Lofton believes that his time at the university helped to prepare him to entertain with his basketball skills, his personality and to travel the world with his talents.

“It’s been amazing,” said Lofton. “If you watched me play when I was here, you know I was always boisterous and animated and had a lot of body language. Sometimes the refs liked it, sometimes they didn’t. But, it always was a good time for me, and I always like to have fun.”

The transition from college basketball to Harlem Globetrotters style of basketball was not difficult according to Lofton. Half of the job is being able to play basketball the other half is personality.

“With the Globetrotters we have some of the best athletes and basketball players in the world,” said Lofton. “It’s basketball first with the Globetrotters, then you get to learn all of the tricks and everything that comes along with being a Globetrotter. But, you got to be a great person first, which I definitely learned here.”

Lofton was given the nickname “Big Easy” the same year he joined the team in 2005 because of his love for his hometown of New Orleans.

“After the hurricane, I always talked about home and how much I missed home while traveling the world and they just called me ‘Big Easy’ because that was all I talked about,” said Lofton. 

The career of a National Basketball Association player is similar to that of a Harlem Globetrotter, but Lofton does not think the two should be compared.

“We have been around for 91 years, so if anything, any other league would have to compare itself to us,” said Lofton. “We have training camps, tryouts and workouts. We definitely have much respect, those are our brothers. Anybody that is playing and enjoys the game basketball is our brothers. We don’t compare or compete with anybody we think we all stand shoulder to shoulder.”

What Lofton enjoys most is making people feel good through his performance and his character as a Globetrotter. Part of being Globetrotter is the acts of friendliness and playfulness that they gear towards children.

“What I personally enjoy the most is looking at the smiles on the kids faces and seeing the families lit up,” said Lofton. “I was talking to a kid who had not said anything for six months but they decided to talk to me that day after a show during the autograph session. That is what I enjoy touching people’s hearts. Just recently down in New Orleans I was able to give away 200 tickets to foster families and stuff like that is what it is about to show people that you can come from the projects of New Orleans and you can go to 90 countries around the world and enjoy yourself.”

Lofton has no plans to end his Globetrotter career anytime soon.

“I’m going to do this until the wheels fall off,” said Lofton. “I plan on playing like the greats all of them played 24 or 25 years and hopefully I can get 25 under my belt.”

The Harlem Globetrotters performed in the University Center for the very first time on Mar. 6. Globetrotter Flip, above, decided to block a shot by climbing on top of the goal.
Nikisun Shrestha/The Lion’s Roar

Globetrotter Scooter, showing how to spin a basketball on your finger.
Jonathan Rhodes/ The Lion's Roar

 

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