For the Globetrotters, even the draft is for laughs

Because I am of the opinion that most people take sports way too seriously, I am happy there are the Washington Generals, and that on their official website there is a photo of a chalkboard depicting the times they have lost to the Harlem Globetrotters. All you can see on the left side are endless rows of four perpendicular slashes and a fifth slash drawn at a diagonal, the way a guy marooned on an uncharted island marks time.

On the right side of the chalkboard, under the heading Washington Generals Wins, there is a single vertical slash.

I am also happy there is a Globetrotters draft, for the same reason.

The Globetrotters, who will play one of two renamed Generals squads — either International Elite or Global Select, as if it matters — at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Thomas &Mack Center, have held a player draft since 2007. A lot of people probably weren’t aware of that, because it wasn’t shown on ESPN. Not even on The Ocho.

The first player picked in the inaugural Globetrotters draft was Anthony “Ant” Atkinson of tiny Barton College. The Ant went on to become a Globetrotters star. On March 29, 2013, Ant Atkinson made 22 shots from 4-point distance — under Globetrotter rules, any made shot from beyond 35 feet counts four points — and scored 93 points.

A lot of people believe the Globetrotters’ draft is a publicity stunt, but then a lot of people thought it was a publicity stunt when the Cavaliers selected UNLV’s Anthony Bennett first overall in last year’s NBA Draft, too.

Bennett has struggled as a pro although he has been playing more minutes recently. His career high is 14 points, which isn’t anywhere close to Ant Atkinson’s 93.

The first couple of years, the Globetrotters mostly drafted guys from little colleges, or guys from bigger colleges with mad dribbling or dunking skills, or freaks of nature, such as Sun Ming Ming of China, billed as the world’s tallest basketball player at 7 feet 9 inches, 390 pounds.

In 2008, I watched Sun Ming Ming try out for one of the Japanese leagues at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy. I wrote that he was a walking solar eclipse, and that he made the Great Wall of China look like a picket fence. The noted basketball writer Alexander Wolff said Sun changed directions with the suddenness of a cruise ship.

But I also saw Sun dunk the ball with his left hand while standing flat-footed. So you could understand why the ’Trotters would burn a draft pick on somebody like that.

Starting with the third Globetrotters draft in 2009, the Harlem club began to get more creative with their late-round selections. That was the year they picked Tim Howard, the goalie for the U.S. men’s soccer team. In 2011, the Globetrotters drafted another soccer player, the world-renowned Lionel Messi, because he was a great dribbler in soccer, so why not basketball?

The next year, the ’Trotters selected Usain Bolt, perhaps figuring his speed would come in handy if International Elite or Global Select put on a press. Last year, Harlem drafted Brittney Griner (but lost out when the Baylor star signed with the WNBA) and Mariano Rivera.

Rivera is from the same hometown as Globetrotters star Special K Daley — Panama City, Panama — and his cutter would fit in perfectly with the ’Trotters famous baseball routine, provided he could learn how to throw it with a basketball.

“In the fourth quarter, when the Globetrotters need to close out a game, who better than the best closer of all time?” ’Trotters CEO Kurt Schneider told MLB.com, presumably with the closest thing to a straight face he could muster.

When Rivera learned he had been drafted by the Globetrotters, he told MLB.com it was time he started to practice his jump shot. If only he had one. “I just got the ball and tried to get it in that basket,” he said.

The Yankees closer went on to say that he likes to watch basketball on TV, especially the playoffs, if that’s any consolation.

So as cool as it would be to watch Usain Bolt chase Mariano Rivera around the Thomas &Mack Center court with a water pail filled with confetti Wednesday night, it won’t be happening, because not all draft choices pan out. Just ask the Cavaliers. Or the Kansas City Royals, who once selected Clint Hurdle in the first round.

This reminds me of 2011, when the Generals “traded” Too Tall Hall to the Globetrotters. Washington did not receive a player in return. Which might explain the single perpendicular slash in its win column.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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