The point guard took the tip-off, but didn’t dribble the ball up court while calling out a set. Instead, he did his best impression of 1997 Peyton Manning, and fired a strike to a teammate downcourt, As a thrilled audience looked on, the recipient flipped it to “Bulldog,” who cocked back his arm and detonated on the rim.
Chandler “Bulldog” Mack was home………by some measure, at least.
The high-flyer, who at one time threw down jams for the Freed-Hardeman Lions a few miles across the state, has spent the last few years thrilling crowds with the Harlem Globetrotters. The most famous team in the world stopped at UT-Chattanooga’s McKenzie Arena on Friday night as part of their “Spread the Game Tour.”
“It feels good to be back, because Tennessee will always have a special place in my heart,” Mack said. “I met some of my closest friends here, and we had the best time in college and are still like brothers to this day.”
Before Mack and his teammates got a chance to drain 40-foot jumpshots and execute their signature hot-potato pass and weave, fans got a chance to meet the talented ballplayers for a half-hour. Pictures were taken, red-white-and-blue basketballs were signed, and smiles were everywhere.
“I want to see dunks and threes,” said a fresh-faced fan named Easton Young, who later said he planned on trying out the same moves he saw the Globetrotters pull off tonight. “I like to shoot threes too.”
In between lighthearted skits and basketball-themed comedy, Easton got to see plenty of long-range bombs and emphatic stuffs. The ball often buzzed from one set of hands to another, moving as if it would explode if it were held for longer than a heartbeat. The ball went from Bulldog to Hot Shot Swanson to Hammer Harrison for a jam at lightning speed.
“I’m hoping to give them one of the best shows they’ve seen in a long time. As we’re getting open and starting to do live shows again, I want to help make this show be a lifelong lasting memory for someone who maybe hasn’t seen us before or is just getting out.”
On the other end, the hapless Washington Generals were a one-man show. Anthony Smith must have had at least 50 points on the night while bombing away from their four-point line. A stunned McKenzie Arena crowd saw the Globetrotters go down 35-29 at the end of the first quarter.
“I’d seen them a lot as a kid, and I brought my son out here to see them too (one time before this),” said Tyler Hogan, standing next to his boy Maddox, “It’s a good show and it’s great for kids, and my dad saw them growing up, so it’s kind of a family tradition to come out and see them.”
Tyler and Maddox got an even better show in the following three quarters, when the Globetrotters took control of the game whenever they weren’t partaking in extracurricular theatrics. They saw an in-game dunk contest, a four-point shootout, and a cast of interesting characters make themselves a part of the game.
As they were always destined to do, the Globetrotters triumphed 109-91. As the final buzzer sounded, that din was enhanced by an even louder standing ovation. Fans young, old, and any age in-between had been completely enthralled by the men who have made fans love the game for 100 years, and will probably do so for the next century too.
“We have to come and show the kids they’ve never seen before, and maybe will never see again,” Bulldog said. “I think that’s our duty and job: to keep fans on their toes and always entertained.”
WASHINGTON GENERALS: 35 20 22 14 - 91
HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS: 29 28 32 30 - 109
You can contact the author at Joseph.a.Dycus@gmail.com or on Twitter at @joseph_dycus .