Gorman grad finds niche, sets world records with Harlem Globetrotters

Scooter
Christensen
makes a living spinning a
basketball on his head and nose. His
job: Put a smile on a fans’ face — something he has mastered.

The Bishop Gorman High graduate is part of the
Harlem Globetrotters,
where his ability to master tricks used by the touring
basketball team in their games — a
combination of theater, comedy and
basketball — has earned him much
notoriety and a spot in the Guinness World Records.

Christensen, 33, is a seven-year veteran of the Globetrotters,
entertaining fans in more than 60 countries and realizing along the
way that there’s more to
basketball than the action on the
hardwood. It’s all about having a good time.

On Wednesday, he’ll be back in Las Vegas when the Globetrotters
and play an exhibition game at 7 p.m. at the
Orleans Arena. Late last
week, Christensen visited Marshall Darnell Elementary School in Las
Vegas, showing off his spinning tricks and bringing goodwill in his
cherished role as one of the organization’s ambassadors.

“The best thing about my job is we get a chance to make people
smile,” he said. “I love giving back to the community. I always
said I wanted to give back if I made it big.

“There is often a language barrier when we go to other
countries, but smiling is a universal language,” he said. “When you
are smiling and having a good time, you forget about everything
else.”

Christensen won a state championship in 1997 at Gorman and had a
storied career at the
University
of Montana,
setting the school’s assist record and leading them
to the 2002 NCAA Tournament. Not ready to end his career, he spent
time playing in the professional minor leagues in places such as
North Dakota before catching the eye of a scout with the Phoenix
Suns during a NBA camp.

The Suns couldn’t offer him a roster spot, but had an appealing
alternative: working as the video coordinator in helping study
future opponents. And, he would be able to continue pursuing his
playing dreams by training in their facility.

“I always look at the bigger picture,” Christensen said. “I
didn’t care if they wanted me to pickup towels, at least I had a
job with a NBA team.”

Then, one day during a Suns’ practice, Christensen caught a
break of a lifetime. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Christensen was asked
to run the plays of the Philadelphia 76ers in practice, coming off
screens like star guard Allen Iverson in preparation for an
upcoming game.

On this day, he was every bit as good as Iverson. “I couldn’t
miss. I hit one, two, three in a row,” he said. “They asked, ‘Who
is this kid?’ You could say I was in the right place at the right
time.”

A scout from the Globetrotters was in the arena, and recruited
Christensen to join their organization — an offer he didn’t
hesitate accepting. Christensen, who had watched the Globetrotters
as a child on the
“Scooby-Doo”
cartoon,
would soon become of the group’s most-respected
players.

During the 2010 NBA all-star weekend, he set the world record
for spinning the ball on his head for 7.9 seconds and nose at 5.1
seconds. He’s also appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” “Hell’s
Kitchen” “The Bachelorette,” and “The Wendy Williams Show.”

Learning the ins and outs of the Globetrotters’ game routine was
easier said than done, but Christensen took the same approach as
preparing for a big game.

“It took hours and hours of practice,” he said of the spinning
trick. “I remember my first practices and watching some of the
veterans and just thinking, ‘Wow.’ But those guys showed me the
tricks of the trade and I was able to add my own style to it. That
competitive edge never leaves you. You still have to be able to
turn it one when you get on the court.”

He calls playing in places like Jerusalem, Africa and for the
military in Iraq some of the highlights of his career. And, of
course, coming back to his hometown of Las Vegas.

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