The Team That Changed the World is a 50-minute documentary on The Harlem Globetrotters that's informative, entertaining, and, frankly, long overdue. If all you know of the Trotters is that they're the goofy basketballers who throw confetti and play "fake" basketball, then this slick trip through the team's history will give you a lot to think about.
Beginning with the team's original seed in the 1940's and boasting interview segments with folks like Samuel L. Jackson, coaches Phil Jackson, John Chaney, Ray Meyer, Bob Cousy & Louis Klotz, Senator Barack Obama, authors Ben Green & John Christgau, Trotters current owner Mannie Jackson, historian Timuel Black, sportswriters Frank Deford & Scoop Jackson, former Trotters Frank Washington, Vertes Zeigler, Hubert Ausbey, Connie Hawkins, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and Dr. Henry Kissinger, The Team That Changed the World covers all the bases. From the art of simple mirth-making to the well-earned shattering of racial divides, the Globetrotters have been an American institution for over 60 years.
I remember going to see the Trotters play when I was in 4th or 5th grade. (Being in Philadelphia, you get plenty of opportunities to see the team during their extensive North American tours. I suspect we're one of their favorite stops.) To me, the sight of black athletes was, of course, nothing new. But as I watched this documentary I realized that there were other kids in smaller towns all over the country, who'd never actually seen black athletes and white athletes on the same court. It's safe to say that if you were a basketball fan in the 1940s and '50s, the Globetrotters were the first black hardcourters you'd ever seen. And it's these numerous and well-received appearances that paved the way for future integration.
The Globetrotters did this even before they began worldwide tours, showcasing their skills for dozens of other cultures. Everywhere the team went, they were seen as (and referred to) as "Americans," and since the players put on such a damn good show, many ticket-buyers went home impressed with the athletes and (hopefully) where they came from. To call the Harlem Globetrotters a true and worthy "ambassador" on America's behalf would certainly be an understatement.
This American history lesson is brought home in fine form with this documentary, and anyone with a healthy respect for the game of professional basketball should find a lot to enjoy in The Team That Changed the World.
Video: The film is presented in its intended fullscreen format. Picture quality is perfectly fine.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Tricks of the Trotters (7:43) is a basic lesson on how to swing some of the team's simpler tricks. (Finally I know how to spin the basketball on my finger!)
Washington Generals (3:16) is a late-'70s news piece that briefly touches upon the Generals and their ever-losin' ways.
12-Foot Slam Dunk (2:02) sees Globetrotter Michael Wilson set the world's record for highest slam-dunk. Strangely, it's not nearly as impressive as it sounds.
Outtakes is an 11-minute collection of interview segments that were snipped from the full documentary.
1951 World Tour Uncut (28:24) is a promotional newsreel piece detailing the team's 1951 tour around the world, from Buenos Aires to London to Germany to Tokyo, and several stops in between.
College All-Star Highlights (7:18) is a collection of footage from the past five Globetrotters vs. College All-Stars games, which are traditionally held during the NCAA College Tournament in March.
Short, slick, and packed with archival footage and compelling interview bits, The Team That Changed the World is the best background piece I've ever seen on the seminal Globetrottin' team. Fans should absolutely enjoy what's offered here.