Ballin’ with the boys

The Harlem Globetrotters bring their high-flying basketball antics to Target Center this Saturday, sporting their most diverse squad in decades.

Samuel Linder

What: The Harlem Globetrotters

Where: Target Center

600 First Ave. N, Minneapolis

When: 7 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday,

Price: $20+

The Harlem Globetrotters flew into this world playing for crowds before swing dances in the heat of Chicago’s Roaring ’20s. Nearly a century later, they’ll try to sell out Target Center for two straight days. All it took for them to get there was a few NBA All-Stars, a couple of cartoon series and over 30,000 alleged career victories.

Indeed, most stats about the Globetrotters seem larger than life, from the crazy height range of their starting roster (5 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 8 inches) to the point spreads they stack up against their hapless opposing team (the poor saps). The games are scripted, of course — designed to showcase the playmaking and joke-making capabilities of the legendary squad — but it only increases the hilarity of their antics.

In 1985, the Globetrotters took another innovative step forward when they signed Lynette Woodard, the first female ever to play for a professional men’s basketball league. For the next eight years, the roster held onto some semblance of gender diversity, but after 1993, no woman graced their roster until last year when TNT Maddox broke the drought.

“It feels great to be a woman on this incredible team, and everyone here is incredibly professional. I’ve always felt comfortable,” Maddox told A&E during an interview.

Despite her supportive teammates, the transition was still a little tough for the 5-foot-6” guard out of Temple University, who had to learn a whole new style of play centered around entertainment rather than competition.

“Trying to find out how to change my game like that was intense. Suddenly, they’re asking you to keep a huge smile on your face as you spin around the floor dribbling behind your back. Not the easiest thing to do,” Maddox said.

Some of the visual antics come naturally to Maddox, however, who has always had a keen eye for art.

“When I was a kid, and everyone else would be drawing, like, houses with stick people in front — I was drawing tigers.”

Between her passion for art and a degree in advertising from Temple, Maddox knows what looks good to the eye, and what brings people’s attention in. She uses those skills nearly every night to bring people around the world an entertaining show.

“The tour’s been tough, but the best part by far is to see all of these new places. I didn’t travel a lot as a kid, and every night now it’s some new city someplace new. I can’t even believe it sometimes,” Maddox said.

The Globetrotters still sell out arenas, but they aren’t quite the entity they used to be when players like Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon were household names.

In the 2000s, they started playing competitively again, having mixed luck against top college teams. In a world with so much competition for the entertainment dollar, organizations need new ways to stand out, and perhaps the Globetrotters have found one in their diverse approach to sporting entertainment.

Black, white, male, female — as long as you can do a behind-the-back alley-oop with your teeth while blindfolded, the Globetrotters have a spot for you on their roster.