The Harlem Globetrotters of 2012 probably aren't the ones you remember. Yes, the colorful players of yesteryear who used cute monikers like “Twiggy,” “Geese,” “Curly” and “Meadowlark,” are long gone. Also this may not be the team you remember from recent years, as the franchise now has two separate teams (sometimes three) that tour the world simultaneously. The Globetrotters squad that plays in Richmond on New Year's Eve as part of their fan-inspired You Write the Rules Tour will have at least one player who will only have just a handful of games under her belt, Ariel “Mighty” Mitchell.
Mighty is the 11th female to play for the Globetrotters, and one of a handful on both teams. Shortly before she played her first game on Dec. 26, the Dillard University graduate talks about hanging with clown princes of basketball, learning the ropes and breaking the rules.
How did you become a Globetrotter?
After I graduated, my main plan was to play overseas. So I went ahead and got a sports agent, and it just so happened she had a connection with the Harlem Globetrotters, so she sent them my video and they end up likin' it. So … they invited me to a tryout, once I did the tryout they invited me to training camp and decided to sign me after training camp.
You studied public health at college. Why did that interest you?
I ended up tearing my ACL my senior year in high school, so I had to go through the whole process of physical therapy. I really liked what the people were doing, so I was like, 'I want to go to school to be physical therapist.' So I started my undergrad at Dillard University in public health, I was planning on getting my master's in physical therapy, but I ended up signing with the Globetrotters.
What have you learned about what it takes to be a Globetrotter? Obviously it's more than just playing basketball.
A Globetrotter doesn't just play basketball; we do so much more than just perform out there on the court. We go to different schools and advertise our anti-bullying program, which is very effective. And we also go to different hospitals and perform for the kids that can't come to the games. That's the part I like about being a Globetrotter, I'm not just an ordinary basketball player.
Being a rookie, have you had to endure any hazing?
Everybody asks me that question. Actually, not yet we haven't begun our tour … so maybe I'll get a little something then. But the guys have been really helpful, giving me pointers about how to be better. I haven't experienced any hazing just yet.
Tell me about the “You Write the Rules Tour.”
For the first time ever, the fans can actually go on the Harlem Globetrotters website and vote for which rule they would like to see in a game. It could be from double points for each basket or it could be even playing with two balls at once, or including our four point shot in a game. Which is really amazing, the four-point shot is located 35 feet from the basket, which is 12 feet from the NBA three point line. That requires a lot of range. The fans seem to really like that rule a lot.
What do you think about the NBA's new anti-flopping rule?
I love it! Because the players have really taken the flopping to another level, I mean, my favorite player is Lebron James, but he takes flopping to a whole another level. I'm really glad that rule is in this year.
You'll be playing your first game soon. The Globetrottter have a long string of victories, are you at all worried about the other team?
No, I have a lot of faith in my team, we have some amazing shooters, dunkers, dribblers, so I'm really confident in my team. Whoever we play we're going to take them down. We got too much talent.
What team are y'all playing these days?
It doesn't matter who we play, we can play anybody, they're still going down. Doesn't matter who we play.
Even if it's Lebron?
Yeah, even if it's Lebron. I'm gonna stare him in the eyes and tell him he's going down. (laughs) I'm confident!
The Harlem Globetrotters play at the Richmond Coliseum at 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31. Tickets range from $20 to $106.