When their KISS pinball machine hit big in the summer of 1979, the folks at Bally saw they had something good going with celebrity-themed pinball games. They followed it a few months later with an equally popular machine built around the Harlem Globetrotters, a world-famous basketball team and a frequent attraction on television.
The result was Harlem Globetrotters On Tour, one of the most popular sports-styled pinball games of all time.
Playing Harlem Globetrotters On Tour was almost as exciting as seeing the team play. The game’s colourful playfield was dominated by a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme that included several renderings of the team’s players in action.
The game had three bumpers and a pair of spinners at the centre, flanked by a third spinner on the left. These spinners were adorned with basketball illustrations that would flip back and forth as the player shot the pinball through them.
The arrangement of the drop targets in Harlem Globetrotters On Tour gave it an additional element of coolness. Instead of lining the sides of the playfield as is the case in many pinball machines, the targets were lined up vertically on the playfield itself. This arrangement allowed the skilled player to angle the pinball around them so they could take them out from behind.
The Globetrotter experience was completed by the inclusion of the group’s whistled theme song, Sweet Georgia Brown, in its sound effects.
Since the Globetrotters themselves were well-known and loved on an international scale, Harlem Globetrotters On Tour was pretty much guaranteed hit status.
Sure enough, the pinball machine did fantastic business around the world and continues to be a favourite with collectors today. Even by modern pinball standards, Harlem Globetrotters is a fun game and is fondly remembered as one of the best celebrity pinball machines.