The Harlem Globetrotters were originally called the Savoy Big Five and were founded in Chicago in 1926. During an era of severe racial segregation, the Globetrotters traveled the world, breaking social and cultural barriers. Highlights included: having a feature photo on the cover of Life Magazine, being the first team to play basketball in Europe, and having a sold out tour of the Soviet Union during the Cold War in 1959. In 1950, Harlem Globetrotter Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton became the first African-American player to sign an NBA contract. Also, the highly talented San Francisco Warrior, Wilt Chamberlain began his professional career with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Ms. Maddox discovered the game of basketball at the age of 13 when she entered a pick up game with boys in her hometown of Colorado Springs. She went on to become a stellar 5-foot-6 guard at Temple University and later played professionally in Sweden.
Ms. Maddox tours the world with the Harlem Globetrotters bringing her basketball skills along with a powerful anti-bullying message. She spoke with students about the ABCs of anti-bullying: A=Action, “stand up for yourself”, B=Bravery, “stand up for others, tell someone, a teacher or trusted adult about bullying”, and C=Compassion, “care about others and be nice to people.” Her words about anti-bullying and maintaining a positive attitude were received by great cheers and applause.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Maddox about basketball and gender.
What was the biggest barrier that you faced as a female professional athlete growing up?
“Lack of publicity and recognition. There is not as much of an outlet for female basketball players. I had to work really hard to get noticed, but that ultimately helped me get to where I am today.”
In your career, for what are you most grateful?
“I’m grateful to have the bigger platform of the Harlem Globetrotters to help me impact kids; it is humbling to be able to motivate kids all-around the world.”
Where do you see women and basketball in the coming years? What needs to happen?
“Women are progressing athletically and women’s basketball is growing quickly, but there needs to be more media exposure. We need to get to know more female basketball players, to learn who they are. The players need to have their brands built and recognized at the same level as men.”
-Special thanks to Joe Lijek for helping to facilitate Ms. Maddox’s visit.
-To watch and learn more about Ms. Maddox’s visit please tune into ABC’s Bay Area Life where the story will be aired in October.