Fatima Maddox, former member of Temple Women’s Basketball, signed with the Harlem Globetrotters two years after leaving North Broad and after several seasons abroad in Sweden.
Fatima Maddox wanted to be like Allen Iverson.
Watch her game on YouTube and you’ll see the same broken ankles and lightning quick ball handling that made Iverson one of the hardest guards to defend as a Philadelphia 76er.
But there’s something about Maddox, a former guard for the women’s basketball team that won the last Atlantic Ten Conference title in 2006, which draws some separation from her idol and it involves her positive view of practicing.
“[Maddox] was great,” former coach Dawn Staley said. “She was a gym rat. She was one that loves to be around the game and she was open to learning. She had incredible speed.”
Well, all that practice finally paid off for the five-foot, seven-inch Maddox, who her new teammates call “TNT.” Her new teammates just happen to be the Harlem Globetrotters.
“That in itself is pretty honoring, that they think that I’m explosive on the court,” Maddox said. “I like it.”
After two years in the Cherry and White (9.7 points and 2.4 assists in 57 career games), and several years overseas playing professionally in Sweden, Maddox returned home to Philadelphia and promptly became the ninth woman in Globetrotter history, and the eighth Owl.
“It really didn’t surprise me that she could accomplish such a feat and be one of the female Globetrotters,” Staley said.
However, Maddox never intended to become a Globetrotter. For most of her life she dreamed of playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association and recently spent the past few seasons playing in Sweden.
“She told me that she wanted to play [professionally],” Staley said of Maddox’s years at Temple. “I was really frank with her and let her know that guards playing overseas and professional, they come a dime a dozen.”
“The experience was wonderful,” Maddox said of playing in Europe. “I recommend it for anybody, just to get out of the country and meet different people. It really opens your mind.”
But while in Philadelphia during the offseason she heard that the team that’s featured Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain was looking for a woman to wear the red, white and blue for the first time since the early 1990’s and she couldn’t pass it up.
“It was a little bit random, just because never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Harlem Globetrotters would be interested in having me on the team,” Maddox said of trying out for the team. “I didn’t really know what to expect, so I just did what I do best. I worked my hardest, especially on defense, and I tried to be a good communicator, something that I learned at Temple.”
Staley emphasized that the honor is not something that should not be taken lightly.
“[Maddox] gets to say she was a Globetrotter, something very few women have the opportunity to put on her résumé,” Staley said.
Maddox can now be named among the short list of female Globetrotters. The most famous “Globetrottess” was the first, Hall of Famer Lynette Woodard in 1985, who was one of the key players involved with the WNBA and women’s basketball in Europe.
“Instantly I was just honored that I could call myself a Harlem Globetrotter now and be part of that rich tradition,” Maddox said. “Those women, they were very good basketball players, so the bar is high but I look forward to the challenge.”
But it’s not really about breaking the gender barrier for Maddox, she just wants to play the game.
“I don’t know if she looks at it like that, because she’s such a basketball player,” Staley said. “Regardless of her sex, she’s a basketball player. She loves to play.”
“I’m very fortunate to be a part of history,” Maddox said. “Right now I’m just hoping to be a Harlem Globetrotter for many years to come.”
But for all the honor and enjoyment she has experienced, Maddox said she still has more work to do to improve her game.
“You want to learn your trade,” Maddox said. “You want to become good at your craft. I’ve been working really hard on some of the tricks. I practice a lot but I’m no stranger to practice.”
Maddox joins a unique “rookie class” of Globetrotters, which features the tallest—seven-foot, eight-inch Paul “Tiny” Sturgess—and shortest—five-foot, two-inch Jonte “Too Tall” Hall—players in team history. The team also adds the 2011 NCAA Slam Dunk Contest winner Jacob “Hops” Tucker who reportedly has a 50-inch vertical.
As a member of the team, Maddox be involved in community service as well, participating in various speeches, charity efforts—including the “C.H.E.E.R. for Character” program for school-aged children—and numerous off-the-court ventures.
“I’m thrilled to be a Globetrotter, even more honored and proud to be able to put on the jersey and represent not only as a Globetrotter but just as a woman,” Maddox said. “Showing other women and young ladies that anything is attainable if you keep a positive attitude and you work hard.”
“Being a Globetrotter just wraps up everything that I’ve been about, not only playing basketball professionally, but I get to reach out and try to help someone else,” she added.
And now she gets to come back home and tour the country.
“If she comes anywhere near South Carolina, Charlotte or Charleston, I’ll definitely go down to see her play,” Staley said.
On March 9, she’ll return to North Broad Street for a game in the Liacouras Center and on March 11 for two games at the Wells Fargo Center.
“Philly is a second home for me, and I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends there,” Maddox said. I’m really happy that I’ll be able to come back and just play in front of them and show them that my hard work paid off.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.