Since Ant Atkinson signed with the Harlem Globetrotters a few years ago, he's played ball with The Bachelorette, shared the court with Mickey Mouse on ESPN The Weekend, and met Jon and Kate plus their eight.
Of the now-discordant Gosselins, he says: "You could tell Kate was a little edgy, but, for the most part, they got along."
Television cameras caught Atkinson and four other Globetrotters as they marched over a sand dune onto a Venice Beach, Calif., basketball court to help Jillian Harris rate the basketball skills of the suitors vying for her nod on The Bachelorette. When the Globetrotters cast off their street clothes to reveal their trademark red-white-and-blue uniforms, the bachelors gasped.
Team members have biked through Holland in wooden shoes on The Amazing Race, played around in Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, and put in a cameo appearance on the Emmy Awards.
Next up for the Globetrotters, who play five games in the Philadelphia area tonight through Monday: a new cartoon show, in development with a target date of 2012.
Globetrotters brass know that interest in the team spikes whenever the affable players are featured on national television - Scooby-Doo in 1971, Love Boat in 1984, Gilligan's Island in 1981, and the recent flurry of reality-show appearances.
"We still get e-mails about Scooby-Doo whenever it's rerun," says Brett Meister, a team vice president. "We want to make a splash back into television. We have the vibrant live-event business where we're in your city once or twice a year, but we want to go beyond the four-walls, live-event business. Having two of our guys on The Amazing Race really raised our profile."
Meister says the executives are exploring a Globetrotter appearance on Dancing With the Stars after fans who followed Flight Time Lang and Big Easy Lofton on The Amazing Race suggested they'd like to see them on the dance floor.
Like the spork is part spoon and part fork, the Globetrotters are one part pro basketball and one part good-natured clowning. Because the players are so family-friendly, it's easy to forget that their game is at pro level. Three years ago, when Atkinson was a senior at Barton College, he became a YouTube sensation when he scored 10 points in the last 39 seconds of an NCAA Division II championship game, one of the greatest solo comebacks in the history of college basketball, good enough to garner more than 227,000 hits online.
Globetrotters exhibition games draw crowds in more than 120 countries with a calibrated mix of new material and nostalgic gags that parents saw as kids and want their own children to see.
Their crowds are a mix of young children, parents, and fans old enough to remember how the Globetrotters helped integrate the basketball arena by besting championship all-white teams in the 1940s. Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton, the first African American player to sign an NBA contract, is a Globetrotter alumnus.
This weekend's games probably won't be cliffhangers. The Globetrotters haven't lost to their archrival, the Washington Generals, since 1971. They haven't lost to anyone since April 1, 2006 - a 1,400-game-plus winning streak.
But expect some real March madness. The lineup always includes wild trick shots, buckets of confetti, rummaging through a woman's purse, and pulling cute kids out onto the floor with them for impromptu basketball-spinning lessons.
The Harlem Globetrotters' 2010 Magical Memories Tour, at