Brawley Chirshom, left, and a teammate chase an audience member around the court during a performance in Seattle. Harlem Globetrotters, Photo Provided
The Harlem Globetrotters have a special place in Brawley Chisholm’s life
“Hey man, who’s that cat comin’ down the street? I don’t know, but it sounds to me that he’s the man with the bones. He’s sure havin’ himself a ball!”
For 90 years, the lyrics from “Sweet Georgia Brown” has introduced the famous Harlem Globetrotters into arenas around the world, to a game like no other. As the Globetrotters begin their show, the two-hour zany, spontaneous and crazy basketball game gives the one they call “Cheese” a short window to feel free in the game he has fallen in love with.
“Basketball is the only time I felt free,” Harlem Globetrotters guard Brawley Chisholm said. “In between the lines, first quarter to third quarter. Even now as a professional getting paid for it, in those four quarters, I just feel like I’m free.”
Ballin’ at Ball State
It was eight years ago when the Harlem Globetrotters approached a 6-foot-2-inch, 165-pound guard who played basketball at Ball State University. Chisholm, a transfer from Western Texas College, had a personality that made his style of play special on the court for the Cardinals.
However, it also gave him an added spark off the court.
“He was [a] great kid off the court,” former Ball State men’s basketball head coach Billy Taylor said. “He came in and meshed right away with the team and the younger players. As a young man coming from New York, he had a little bit of style and flash, but not flamboyance to his game.”
On the court, Chisholm played at Ball State from 2008-10. He appeared in all 30 games of his senior season and averaged 18.9 minutes per game off the bench. He finished sixth on the team in scoring at 4.5 points per game and led the Cardinals from the free throw line, connecting on 86.5 percent, including a stretch of 24 free throws.
“There's a real distinction between someone who had a little flash, but it didn't take away from the way he played the game and his ability to perform for us,” Taylor said.
Growing up only 22 minutes away from Harlem in the Bronx, Chisholm had never been to a Harlem Globetrotters game. While he was aware of the history and what the team was all about, he had never heard that jubilant whistling of Sweet Georgia before.
“Before I became a Harlem Globetrotter I had never been to Harlem Globetrotter game,” Chisholm said. “The fact that the first game I had been too, I played in, it made it a lot more special knowing the history and how long they had been around.”
Chisholm’s invitation to play with the exhibition team was not only an honor for himself, but also made Taylor extremely proud.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for him,” Taylor said. “He has a chance to give back and play basketball for the Globetrotters, it's just a long-standing proud organization. I was excited for him to have that opportunity and I knew that he would maximize that.”
Becoming a Globetrotter
As soon as Chisholm signed the papers, he was singing that Brother Bones tune from Atlanta to Tokyo, as he was officially a Harlem Globetrotter.
One of the first stops Chisholm made on the game tour was inside a place he had once called home for two years, a time he described as “the best years of my life.” He got to play with the Harlem Globetrotters in Worthen Arena, the Ball State basketball arena.
“It was amazing to be back in Worthen [Arena] and Muncie back in 2011,” Chisholm said. “It's always good to be home to play in front of family and friends. I would compare playing in Muncie to playing in Madison Square Garden.”
Family and friends indeed filled the audience that night. Taylor sat in the audience, along with his wife and children, and watched his recruit from Western Texas take the floor with one of the most acclaimed teams in the world.
“That was a really neat moment for me as a coach,” Taylor said. “I got to see one of my guys playing professional basketball and doing what he really loves, making an impact. Making kids smile, making fans happy and all the while, doing what he loves.”
After a trip down memory lane, Chisholm was off to all corners of the world. From eating a Belgian waffle in Belgium to petting a kangaroo in Australia, he aspires to gain the most out of every place he has traveled too. The fans around the world have also showed an extreme passion for the Globetrotters whenever they roll into town.
“There is so much more entertainment, from the NBA to Major League Baseball to football to the Harlem Globetrotters, in America,” Chisholm said. “I’m not saying that people are full of it, but in Europe, they are not exposed to that much entertainment. When we're in Europe, the fans are following the bus like we're rock stars. It's definitely amazing.”
Beyond the court
While Chisholm has been grateful for the opportunity to play the game he loves at a professional level, he has seen this as a chance to give people an experience they will never forget. The experience that the Globetrotters bring to the fans, one the NBA can't provide, is what makes his job worth it.
“I just love to see a kid that love basketball,” Chisholm said. “Most of the time, you go to a basketball game and you don't get to be up close and personal with each player. The fact that I am able be up close and personal with the fans is really significant to me and so is the stuff we do off the court. We have visited children's hospitals and done performances at schools. I really enjoy the stuff we do in communities off the court. That's what really hits home the most.”
Chisholm and the Globetrotters believe that it is their mission every game to give a fan an amazing experience.
“Our mission is to create memories, to create smiles and if you have ever been to a Harlem Globetrotters game, it's a family environment,” Chisholm said. “We have eight to 80-year-old fans and that's the environment we have, fans seeing great basketball and you can come laugh and see great and genuine people.”
The Globetrotter name has meant a lot for those involved and those spectating as well. An organization standing for 90 years now with the intention to entertain has left a long lasting impression. For Taylor, he’s proud that one of his own is out there.
“You have a young man that's playing professional basketball with one of the biggest, long standing and professional basketball organizations in the country, and one is known around the world and they travel,” Taylor said. “It's really impressive that we got one of our own that's doing something special with the Globetrotters.”
From the Bronx to Texas, from Muncie to Atlanta, Chisholm has traveled the world. While Chisholm has seen just about everything and has been just about everywhere, his passion for the game has not died and his love for Ball State has not faded.
“Since playing in college eight years ago, the love is what still keeps you playing," Chisholm said. “Even now as a profession and I get paid for it, those four quarters I just feel like I'm free. I do miss the BSU days. They were definitely great for me. I will cherish them for all my life and I'll always be a Cardinal. Chirp! Chirp!”
Contact Jack Williams with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.