Briana “Hoops” Green first picked up basketball to be more like her older brother when she was four years old. Twenty-four years later, she’s still sharing the court with her brothers—but now there are nine more of them. They’re called the Harlem Globetrotters.
Hoops was the 15th woman named to Harlem’s roster in 91 years of Globetrotters basketball. After a wildly successful college career at the University of Texas at El Paso and a brief professional career in Spain, the Czech Republic, and Mexico, Hoops secured her spot on the team in 2017. The current roster lists 32 athletes—including a record-high four women—but they’re separated for most of the year, as they’re divided into different travel squads. On the Globetrotters’ current tour through Eastern Canada, Hoops is the only woman on the court, and she embraces it.
“[The boys] are a lot of fun,” Hoops said. “We have a blast on the bus, and we’re literally always together. They’re just a great group of guys that teach me how to be a Globetrotter on and off the court.”
Since her debut with the Globetrotters, Hoops has learned a lot from the teammates she calls brothers. Being a Globetrotter is all about providing entertainment—about mixing real, competitive basketball with the signature tricks and routines that fans have come to know and love. At the same time, it’s also about service and using the iconic Globetrotters brand for good.
Indeed, the Harlem Globetrotters have long been involved with issues bigger than basketball. Since their days as a solely-competitive team, they’ve used basketball to make important political statements: Most notably, their 1948 game against the Minneapolis Lakers contributed to the desegregation of the NBA. In 1985, Lynette Woodard became the first woman to suit up for the Globetrotters. While Woodard paved the way for seven more female Globetrotters, the revolution was short-lived: After 1993, the Globetrotters were exclusively male for an 18-year stretch. Fatima “TNT” Lister broke the drought in 2012, and the organization has since been committed to breaking gender barriers by bringing in top female talent.
The Globetrotters are often, with reason, commended for their big picture efforts toward equality in sport. Today, they continue to be involved in their local community, too, with initiatives such as Smile Patrol, which brings the Globetrotters into children’s hospitals, and SPIN, which is aimed at getting kids engaged in a fun, healthy lifestyle.
“We’re the ‘Ambassadors of Goodwill’,” Hoops said. “We’re basketball players, but we also do more than that. We give back to the community, which is something really important.”
Through these structured programs, the Globetrotters build their athletes into positive role models outside of the basketball world. The relationships between the fans and the athletes remain central to the organization, as they always make time in their game-day routine for admirers to interact with their favourite athletes. Hoops takes the fan-athlete relationship a step further, connecting with individual followers through social media.
“When I was a kid and I […] had a favourite basketball player, […] I would have wanted them to respond [on social media],” Hoops said. “I think that would have been pretty cool, so I just do that and give back, and if someone needs encouragement, I’ll try to encourage them. If someone needs a little help, a tip, or just someone to talk to, just say ‘hi,’ then I wanna be that person.”
The team’s concerted efforts to connect with fans, in addition to their wildly entertaining gameplay, draw a wide variety of people to their games. Whether they’re tipping off in Melbourne, Budapest, or Montreal, the Globetrotters manage to entertain people at all stages of life.
“Our fan base is so diverse,” Hoops said. “It’s basically three generations. You’ll see the grandkids, the parents, and then you’ll see the grandparents [….] We make the game for everyone, and it’s catered so that everybody can enjoy it and have a good time.”
The Harlem Globetrotters have always been enthralling and accessible. But, by including female athletes in their engaging routines, they’ve anchored a new demographic: Girls. The four women on their active roster have become role models for young women everywhere. While leagues like the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also showcase women’s basketball, playing on the Globetrotters gives Hoops and her female teammates a unique chance to match up against talented male athletes.
“I think that’s what […] really impresses people, that I’m just a girl, a woman, playing with them,” Hoops said. “I just try to be a positive role model to [female athletes…] and encourage girls [to believe] that they’re more than capable of doing anything they put their minds to if they just invest the time.”
Hoops earned herself a spot with the legendary franchise by posting videos of dribbling routines, but her role with the Globetrotters has grown far beyond her world-class handles. Every time she suits up in the storied red, white, and blue, she’s making a statement: Women’s sport is valid, important, and tremendously entertaining.
“We’ll continue to break barriers as we go along, but it’s definitely positive that […] there are four women on the team, and hopefully we’ll have more each and every year,” Hoops said. “We’ll continue to build on that, and grow, and let them know again. Women are more than capable.”