SHE GOES BY “TNT” Maddox these days as a ball-handling wizard for the Harlem Globetrotters. She went by Fatima Maddox in college when she used Dawn Staley as her model in believing a female could accomplish anything in the world of basketball.
Staley’s game originated on the streets of Philadelphia where she played against boys before migrating to Virginia for college, to the WNBA and eventually to three gold-medal winning performances in the Olympics. Staley, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member, now is considered one of the top college coaches in the game.
Maddox also learned to play against boys in Colorado Springs, led Temple to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances and played professionally in Sweden before becoming the first female member of the Globetrotters in two decades.
For 90 years, the Globetrotters have entertained fans and promoted the game of basketball around the world, and Maddox said she is thrilled to continue the legacy of such greats as Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal. More than that, she is honored to be a role model for young women.
“It’s really important for me to not only tell a girl that she can do anything,” Maddox said Wednesday night after showing off her ball-handling skills at halftime of the USC men’s basketball game, “but to go out and show her, also.”
No one is more proud of Maddox’s role with the Globetrotters than Staley.
“I’m happy for her, because she’s able to live out her dream of playing basketball,” Staley said. “You have players who really love the game, but there’s no outlet if you don’t have the WNBA or can’t go overseas and play. For someone who is a gym rat, works extremely hard, she can get rewarded by being a Globetrotter.”
Maddox, like most young women over the years, had watched the Globetrotters on TV with the expected degree of fascination and awe. Then she sneaked a peak at the team when she played at Temple and the Globetrotters performed there.
Really, though, she saw the Globetrotters as a males-only entertainment act until she received an inquiry five years ago about trying out for the team. She was among about 25 others, including three other females, who showed for the one-day camp at a south Philadelphia high school.
Maddox said she had no idea what to expect, but she brought along her two-basketball dribble routine, just in case. The tryout session was more like a traditional college practice with drills and scrimmages. Afterward, Maddox got to perform her special skill.
“Sweet Lou” Dunbar, who played 27 years with the Globetrotters and now is the club’s director of player personnel, was impressed.
“Of that particular group of young ladies in Philadelphia,” Dunbar said, “she was by the far the most talented in the building that day.”
Making the team is one thing. Learning to be a Globetrotter is quite another. Maddox said she continues to add to her ball-spinner repertoire and she has worked closely with former Globetrotter and current dribbling instructor, Jimmy Blacklock.
“She’s a premier dribbler,” Dunbar said. “She’s a phenomenal dribbler. It’s a work of art with her.”
Beyond the basic basketball skills, Maddox said being a Globetrotter is about spreading good will while making fans laugh.
“It wasn’t until I got on board and actually saw people’s faces and saw their reactions when we go places, whether it’s the mall or to a gym,” she said. “It’s such a positive organization, and it’s been awesome. To be a part of, arguably, one of the most famous sports teams in history, I definitely feel honored.”
Maddox said she is particularly excited to reunite with Staley for Saturday’s two games against the Washington Generals at Colonial Life Arena. And, of course, to show the young women in attendance that opportunities exist for them in basketball.