The SSE Arena Wembley and Harlem Globetrotters logo

The SSE Arena Wembley, London

Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals
2020 World Tour: Pushing The Limits

The Washington Generals basketball team came within a minute of an historic upset, pushing the mighty Harlem Globetrotters all the way in a tense encounter at Wembley Arena.

The SSE Arena Wembley exterior
"Hello Wembley!"

A sellout crowd (if you ignore all those hundreds of taped off seats) packed into Wembley's SSE Arena hoping for a chance to see the hapless Generals put an end to their fiercest rival's fabled dynasty once and for all.

With no love lost between these two teams, the arrogant Globetrotters, led by captain Donte "Hammer" Harrison, set out immediately to get under the skin of their opponents, displaying a total lack of class and sportsmanship as they chose to introduce Washington as "the most losingest team in basketball."

Harlem Globetrotters scarf salesman outside The SSE Arena Wembley
The Brits will sell scarves for literally any occasion.

The Generals, in search of their first win since 1971 yet still manage to have the distinction of not even being the worst professional basketball team to grace America's capital city (hello Washington Bullets Wizards), showed excellent character in shaking off the taunts and pledged to push their illustrious opponents to the limit.

They started brightly too, racing out to an early lead as the Globetrotters showed some signs of fatigue from a gruelling journey down from Nottingham. But if they started to believe that they wouldn't even have to work for a first win in 49 years, they were going to be solely mistaken.

Harlem Globetrotters taking on the Washington Generals at The SSE Arena Wembley
The Washington Generals take possession in search of a monumental giant killing.

Sports fans always complain that the referees are biased towards the best teams and it was no exception here. It didn't take long to see that the Globetrotters had not only an advantage in talent, but also had the referee's permission to get away with absolutely anything.

Taking a microphone whilst play is going on to call mock your opponent's physical appearance, comparing them to Shaggy from Scooby Doo? Should have been a technical foul, but was deemed perfectly legal. Travelling? Forget about it. Controversy continued to reign as Harlem soon clawed back the deficit, tying the game at 17 apiece despite an egregious shot clock violation going uncalled.

Paweł "Dazzle" Kidoń of the Harlem Globetrotters spins a ball
Bunch of show ponies, the lot of 'em.

The Generals had every right to feel aggrieved and referee Douglas McHenry's continued blind eye to Harlem's indiscretions was best summed up when he allowed the Globetrotters to take minutes off the clock to engage in a choreographed dance number with their inflatable mascot, Big G.

As the clock ticked down towards half time, more fouls on the unfortunate Washington players (including a wedgie) would go unpunished. It would only get worse when an unprecedented rewriting of the basketball rule book allowed Lucius "Too Tall" Winston to sink a four point shot from the field to rub salt into the Generals' wounds. The Globetrotters started to pull away and would head into the intermission leading 35-26.

The SSE Arena Wembley's concourses
Fans swarm Wembley Arena's concourses at half time, no doubt disgusted by the designated home team's antics and poor sportsmanship.

Some literal underhand tactics from the Globetrotters would prove to be the story of the third quarter, "Hammer" Harrison once again the architect. It was his underhand shot that was the highlight of a period interrupted by a 7 year old child rushing onto the court from the stands.

It was claimed that he was the son of Harrison himself, but I saw no resemblance. The fact that the referees allowed little Hammer Jr. to take an uncontested shot and count it towards the Harlem score is one of the most scandalous displays of officiating I've ever seen. Whatever next? Allowing streakers to score in football?

Crowd member takes a shot during the Harlem Globetrotters game
Hammer's (31) definitely not biological son somehow manages to add to the score.

"Injury" would soon force father of the year Hammer out of the game. Harlem were able to call on their bench full of stars with Guinness World Record holder and Lock Haven University legend, Chris "Handles" Franklin, taking their captain's place. Poor defense from Washington allowed the Globetrotters domination to continue as they closed out the quarter with an alley oop to lead 51-34. 

The fourth quarter began with a repainting of that mysterious four point line. The Globetrotters in their arrogance deciding to push it back an extra four feet to further "push the limits". Not that they needed any more help in running up the score as the referees missed a blatant kicked ball by Doug "Hawk" Anderson as Harlem continued to pull away.

A Harlem Globetrotter goes for an alley oop
Hang Time! Running together, putting it on the line. Hang Time! Jammin' forever, taking it up for hang time!

Referee McHenry would lose what little control he already had of the game, displaying the discipline of a supply teacher, when the Globetrotters cynical time-wasting tactics saw four minutes run off the game clock as Hawk decided to just stand on the beleaguered ref.

With the Globetrotters seeing out a comfortable 59-43 victory, something truly amazing happened. Something that what would have caused Stephen Hawking to leap out of his chair in astonishment. Time ceased to be linear.

Spectator stand at The SSE Arena, Wembley
Wembley's ample floor space allows kids (and adults) to be really annoying and just stand around bouncing a ball or throwing said ball into the seats, like this guy.

A ripple in the space time continuum saw the Generals literally rewind a whole passage of play before somehow continuing to use their newfound powers of the occult to reverse the score to a 43-43 tie with 1:15 remaining. A quick flurry from Washington had Harlem suddenly on the ropes and down by four.

With the players reeling at the prospect of a shocking defeat, and the crowd questioning whether they were now in the darkest timeline and in danger of missing out on a post-game autograph session, the Globetrotters bench called a much needed time-out to settle the nerves and regroup.

A Harlem Globetrotters player stands on the basket
Yeah, I don't think that's legal either.

It's in these moments of adversity where true sporting heroes are made. Lo and behold, Harlem's inspirational captain "Hammer" Harrison suddenly emerged from the tunnel, his injury presumably one of the other things that Washington's merry band of time travellers erased.

Hammer rallied his troops. It was his dunk with a minute remaining that pulled the Globes to within two. This clearly rattled the Generals. Suddenly they were unable to make a shot or reverse time and Harlem found themselves up by two as the seconds ticked away.

A dunk by "Hawk" Anderson in the dying seconds finally secured this roller coaster game in Harlem's favour by a 53-49 scoreline, extending their winning streak and Washington's streak of perpetual misery to some 17,000 games. It was once again a case of so near, yet so far for the poor Generals franchise. Now, could you use some of that time travel ability to help us avoid an outbreak of COVID-19? Thanks.

Useless information about The SSE Arena Wembley

Address: Engineers Way, Wembley, London, HA9 0AA
Capacity: 12,500
Pitch Type: Definitely no longer a pool
Ticket Price: £23
Program: £8, 28 pages
Cheapest Pint: £6.25 (plus a whole extra £1 for the reusable cup, which you have to pay because drinking beer out of your hands is pretty difficult)

Harlem Globetrotters 2020 tour programme