The Harlem Globetrotters offer slam dunk fun for the family

Bouncing into Baton Rouge

Louisiana ’Trotters The state can claim two Harlem Globetrotters: New Orleans native and Southeastern Louisiana University alum Nate “Big Easy” Lofton, and Herb “Flight Time” Lang, formerly of Bossier City and graduate of Centenary College. The duo are also known for competing on CBS’ ‘The Amazing Race.’

The Harlem Globetrotters have never been an old-school basketball experience. Now, they’re not even your old-school Harlem Globetrotters.

When the legendary hoops tricksters and jokesters take the court Saturday in Baton Rouge, they’ll have the familiar red, white and blue uniforms, the sleight-of-hand dribbling and passing skills and the whimsy that have made them famous worldwide. But, for the second consecutive year, the Globetrotters will play under rules set by an entirely unpredictable decision-maker.

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The idea of letting fans change some of the rules of the game was such a hit last year that the Globetrotters, in their 88th season, have expanded on the theme in the 2014 Fans Rule World Tour. Fans planning to attend Saturday’s games can go online to harlemglobetrotters.com and pick from five rules variations. The top three vote-getters will be used in the first three quarters of the games. Then, fans in the arena can vote by applause on which rule will hold sway in the final period.

“So, all four quarters will have different rules voted on by our fans,” said Globetrotter Anthony “Buckets” Blakes. “It makes the game more interactive for them. They feel like they have a lot more involvement as opposed to us only pulling them out onto the basketball court and having some fun with them or going up into the crowd with a bucket of confetti or a bucket of water.”

The options are:

Hot Hand Jersey. In each quarter, the Globetrotters and their opponent each will have a jersey depicting a flaming basketball, and when the player wearing that jersey scores, his points count double. Considering that Globetrotter games not only include a three-point arc but four-point zones 35 feet from the basket, that can create an incredibly productive trip down the court.

“It’s my favorite,” Blakes said. “They call me ‘Buckets’ because I can score a lot in a hurry, so you can tally up a ton of points in a short time.”

The teams can change who wears the jersey to increase the odds that it goes, appropriately enough, to the player with the hot hand.

Make or Miss. This quarter will start with two players from each team. When a team hits a shot, it gets to add a player (to a maximum of five). When a team misses a shot, that player must leave the court. No team can have fewer than two players, but the potential for mismatches is significant.

Trick Shot Challenge. Each team has three trick shot challenges during the quarter. If a team makes the trick shot, it gets five points. A miss gives the other team five points.

Six on Five. The Globetrotters’ opponents will have six players on the court.

Two-Ball Basketball. There have been teams with so many scorers that one ball wasn’t enough. In this rule, there will be two balls in play at all times. Depending on how play develops, one team might have both balls, or neither, and each team might have one, which makes players decide whether they’re on offense or defense.

“You talk about having to improvise, to have two basketballs and try to keep them away from one team, your true skills come out,” Blakes said. “I was a great defender at the University of Wyoming and every other place I played, so I’d rather go back and keep them from scoring.”

Not that defense is what Globetrotter games are known for. Fun is the operating principle, and it includes an opportunity for fans to dance along with the team when it incorporates the Trotter Bounce, a new dance created by choreographer Mark Ballas of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” into the action.