Marques Haynes’ dribbling skills wowed fans in more than 100 countries. He was a showstopper – a player who helped to make the basketball exhibition team the Harlem Globetrotters beloved ambassadors of the game around the world.
Haynes, often lauded as the greatest dribbler in basketball history, died in Plano, Texas, of natural causes, the Globetrotters said. He was 89.
In two stints with the touring team – from 1947-53 and 1972-79 – Haynes played in more than 1,200 games for a team that combined dazzling skills, theatrical flair and circus antics.
“Marques paved the way for people of all races to have opportunities to play basketball, and for the sport to explode on a global scale,” said Kurt Schneider, Globetrotters CEO. “His unique and groundbreaking style of play set the tone for modern basketball as we know it. He was the consummate Globetrotter.”
In 1946, while playing at Langston University, in Oklahoma, the acrobatic Haynes caught the attention of Globetrotters owner, Abe Saperstein, after leading Langston to a win over Globies. Haynes remained at the school, but after graduation joined the Globetrotters. He led them to victories against the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers of the NBA in 1948 and 1949.
Haynes was more than mere showman on the court, although his dribbling skills were eye-popping displays that often had opponents standing and watching in awe.
The high points of his Globetrotters career took place in the late-Forties and early-Fifties (his return in the 1970s was as part of a more nostalgic, showman-like version of the team). As well as appearing at headline venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Rose Bowl, he and the team also took their awe-inspiring displays to more unlikely places: bullrings in Spain, dusty courts etched out in African villages and – piquantly – racially hostile Southern towns.
Haynes was also in the line-up in 1951 when the team played one of their most memorable games: at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, in front of 75,000, and in the presence of Jesse Owens, who had so spectacularly shown his defiance to Hitler in the same stadium in 1936. The Globetrotters retired Haynes’ No. 20 jersey in 2001, one of only five players to be so honoured.
Marques Haynes, basketball player: born Oklahoma 10 March 1926; died Plano, Texas 22 May 2015.
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