Dajuan Eubanks brings his Harlem Globetrotters uniform when he speaks to Maine children at basketball clinics or gatherings. He doesn’t wear it.
The unmistakeable top and bottom with its stars and stripes probably still fits after 20 years. That’s not the issue. “The uniform doesn’t define me,” said Eubanks. It’s only part of his identity.
He takes out his cellphone and pulls up a photo of the uniform draped over a basketball on a basketball court. Eubanks can’t be seen. “It’s my favorite photo.” That is, if the subject is his three seasons with the traveling basketball team the world loves.
The Globetrotters play at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday. When they come to Portland, Eubanks usually visits old friends still with the team and brings his three young daughters to the game. He can’t do that this Sunday afternoon. He’s the executive vice president of the Maine Red Claws, and they have a game at the Portland Expo at the same time.
Eubanks didn’t see a conflict. The Globetrotters are his past, the Red Claws are his present. He traveled the world with the Globetrotters, Europe and South America in particular. He played in front of Prince Rainier of Monaco and other notables you find in history books.
Geese Ausbie, the team’s Clown Prince, was his coach. So was Tex Harrison, the great ballhandler who lived in Houston, the home of Rice University, where Eubanks earned a basketball scholarship. Harrison, Sweet Lou Dunbar and other Globetrotters worked out at Rice. Harrison helped recruit Eubanks to the Globetrotters.
At 6-foot-9, Eubanks came to Rice to play the role of shot blocker. He got his nickname, “Piece” from a high school teammate, meaning “there Eubanks goes again, getting a piece of an opponent’s shot.”
For three years, 1994-97, Eubanks lived the life he never imagined while growing up in Dallas. He was the second “funnyman” on one of the three Globetrotter teams.
After halftime it was Eubanks who grabbed the bucket fans thought was full of water instead of the confetti that actually washed over them.
His role was fun, of course. The Globetrotters make people laugh more than cheer. They weren’t busting someone’s NCAA tournament bracket, either.
The three years were eye-opening. He saw new cities and countries, and met their famous and not-so-famous citizens. He was too busy signing autographs to ask for his own. Besides, he preferred shaking hands.
“We were ambassadors. We didn’t forget that. Tex Harrison (one of the Globetrotters’ legends) was with guys who met Mother Teresa. I didn’t have that opportunity.
“I had a list of people I wanted to meet. Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier, Bill Russell. My unit was playing in Europe when the second unit went to South Africa. I regret not making (that trip) because I wanted to meet Nelson Mandela.”
He did spend some time with Bill Cosby backstage when the comedian was in Portland a few years ago. Cosby was an honorary Globetrotter.
Eubanks didn’t get rich in the sense of dollars during his playing time, although the money wasn’t bad. A first-year player, he said, would have made a good five figures 20 years ago. A player with a more visible role and identity got $100,000 and more.
More importantly to Eubanks, his three years opened doors to other opportunities in business and sports marketing such as the NBA Jam, which caters to younger fans, providing behind-the-scenes moments with NBA players. Eubanks moved on.
The NBA Jam brought him to Portland. He met Amy Sisson, an Ellsworth native and basketball player who was on Gary Fifield-coached teams at the University of Southern Maine. They married and Eubanks had a new home. The oldest of their three daughters is 13. He tells them what he tells the other kids he meets and speaks to: Anything is achievable. Look at him.
That Eubanks doesn’t wear his Globetrotters uniform doesn’t mean he wants to distance himself from the organization. It’s much the opposite. The Globetrotters gave Eubanks a second chance at doing something he loved.
Health issues and surgery robbed him of a full basketball career at Rice, a university better known for its scholars than its athletes. Eubanks retained his scholarship and worked as a student coaching assistant. He graduated with a degree in business and sports management.
If you’ve been to a Red Claws game at home during the past five seasons, you’ve seen Eubanks. He’s the 6-foot-9 man who wears his business suits nicely. Luminous smile that flashes regularly. Deep, measured voice.
Much of his job is the selling of the Red Claws to corporate sponsors. That doesn’t stop single-game ticket holders from approaching and asking for an autograph. The Red Claws don’t tout his past. The team certainly doesn’t hide it, either.
Dajuan Eubanks was a Harlem Globetrotter. “It is a fraternity. We are a band of brothers.”
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: