Harlem Renaissance After a spin with the Globetrotters, Jerome James is fit to be a King

February 15, 1999

With a convex body of Shaq-like dimensions (7'1", 300 pounds),
Sacramento rookie Jerome James knew that staying in shape during
the lockout was going to be crucial. But the second-round draft
pick from Florida A&M never thought his off-season conditioning
regimen would entail throwing buckets of confetti and
de-pantsing opponents while playing for basketball's most famous
repertory troupe. After arriving at the ultracompetitive Fila
Summer Pro League in Southern California, James joined the first
team that offered him a uniform: the Harlem Globetrotters. "At
first I was like, Huh?" he says. "But it worked out great."

Playing in the league gives the Globetrotters a chance to
evaluate players and stay sharp for their nearly endless season.
It also gives them a chance to play some real ball, which they
did last year, winning the league championship. Then it was time
to get down to funny business. When the league ended in late
July, the Globetrotters invited James to join their road show. "I
couldn't just sit on the couch and watch television," James says,
so he signed on for Globetrotter tours of Europe and the U.S.

The frenetic pace of a Globetrotters game was tough on
James--few 300-pound players can shine in a game that has an
over/under of 320--but he was dominant at times. In a rare
shtick-free game against the top Lebanese team, for instance,
James had a triple double that included 10 blocked shots.

"Jerome's game just got better and better, and he was a pleasure
to have on the team," says Mannie Jackson, the Globetrotters'
owner. "Even when he was traveling all the time, playing two
games in one day, he never had an NBA attitude."

James wasn't an integral part of the team's comedy routines, but
he did develop an effective bit of what vaudevillians used to
call "business": He would pick an unsuspecting elderly woman out
of the audience, tuck her under his arm and carry her around the
court like a loaf of bread.

The Globetrotters released James from his contract when the
lockout ended in January and invited him to rejoin them this
summer. Although James appreciates the offer, he's doing his
best to make sure he has a job locked down before then. Against
competition a tad stiffer than the Washington Generals and the
Lebanese Nationals, James wasted little time impressing the
Sacramento front office. "Jerome still has to get a better feel
for the game," says Kings coach Rick Adelman. "But he's got
great size, he can score, and he's got good hands." Through
Sunday he was averaging 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Though he was a big fan of the Globetrotters cartoon series when
he was a kid, James claims he couldn't even spin a ball on his
finger before he joined the team. "I learned a few tricks, but
the Globetrotters are about a lot more than that," he says.
"It's a very professional organization, and the guys are
excellent players who are serious about the game." Still, the
first time James tries to give Alonzo Mourning a wedgie or douse
Jess Kersey with a bucket of confetti, we'll know where he
picked it up.

--L. Jon Wertheim