MISSOULA – Monday night marked the end of an 11-year drought since Shane “Scooter” Christensen had stepped on the court at Dahlberg Arena.
Donning a blue tank, red and white striped shorts and high white socks, the current Harlem Globetrotter was right back at home.
A 14-year veteran with the world famous basketball entertainers, Christensen played for the University of Montana from 1997-2002. He ranks No. 2 in career assists behind current head coach Travis DeCuire.
Christensen last played on the floor at Dahlberg Arena in 2007, his second year with the Globetrotters. At the time, his nickname wasn’t Scooter, it was “BeBe.”
However, Scooter was a nickname his father gave him, so he started attempting to make that a thing. And when he visited Missoula that year, one thing stands out in particular.
“I kept telling the team my nickname was Scooter but we had a guy on our team, his actual name was Scooter McFadgon,” Christensen recalled with a laugh. “So when they had all these Scooter signs when I came back, he thought they were for him and I said, ‘Hold on man, there’s only one Scooter that I know of that came out of here and it’s not you.’
“I haven’t been back in 11 years. I had dinner with my coach Don Holst (Sunday night) just talking about old times. It’s been very fun.”
Fun is an understatement. Since joining the Globetrotters during the 2005-2006 campaign, Christensen has done just that. He said in his career, he’s visited 85 countries, entertaining people of all ages in the sport he has been playing since he was 5.
It’s also the sport in which he led the Griz to a berth in the NCAA Tournament in his senior year in 2002. And when he saw Missoula on the calendar, memories came flooding back with Christensen saying a chill went down his back when he stepped into the building.
“It’s my college years, man,” Christensen said. “I grew as a man here. I played with great teammates. I remember everything. The crowd going crazy at every game. And then having support with the football team and the Lady Griz and volleyball. We just all, together, were going through the same thing and I remember that.
He added with a big grin, "I remember the blizzard walks going to class. I remember it being a beautiful day outside, and everybody would go outside with a hacky-sack, got the dog running chasing the squirrels. Every time I look at that M (on Mount Sentinel), I know it’s 14 zig-zags to the M. Little memories like that.
“I’m telling some of my Harlem Globetrotter teammates that I used to run to that M and they were like, ‘You used to run that?’ And I’d tell them I’d do that in six minutes and they’d be like, ‘Get out of here.’”
Christensen was announced first in the Globetrotters’ starting lineup to a loud ovation from the crowd when told he was a UM grad. And visiting his old stomping grounds has given the former Griz a chance to reflect on where he was then and where he is now.
Also, the first Globetrotter introduced was Shane “Scooter” Christensen who is a former #GrizHoops player who played from 1997-2002. He is second all-time in career assists behind current head coach Travis DeCuire. Huge round of applause here. pic.twitter.com/WtxAAYbDsm— Kyle Hansen (@khansen406) November 27, 2018
Now married with three children, Christensen, a Las Vegas native, has literally trotted the globe in a career he found almost by accident.
After graduating, he spent time in a couple of minor pro leagues before finding a job as an assistant video coordinator with the Phoenix Suns and later became a practice player for them. The team would hold pickup games, so Christensen was taking on Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa and Shawn Marion in scrimmage games.
At the time, the Globetrotters were based in Phoenix. According to Christensen, the representatives from the Globetrotters visited a scrimmage looking at a different player, but were intrigued by Christensen’s game.
“’Who’s that guy?’ ‘Oh that’s our video coordinator guy, Shane Christensen,’” he recalled. “They brought me to the Globetrotter camp and I’ve been a Globetrotter ever since.”
Admittedly, joining the Globetrotters was never something on his radar. And when he joined, he didn’t think he would join them for this long.
But as time has gone on, he’s carved out a nice post-college job and career out of it.
“It was just something that, God-willing, I was just in the right place at the right time,” Christensen said.
Before every game as a Griz, Christensen would do a “two-ball drill” to work on his handling ability. After dribbling with two basketballs, Christensen felt that he became sharper in the game using only one. That translated over to the Globetrotters, where trick shots, crazy dribbling and wild passes are the name of the game. Known as a premier ball-handler and passer in college, Christensen fit right in.
“And look what it’s brought me,” Christensen said.
Christensen, along with showman and crowd favorite Nathaniel “Big Easy” Lofton were both in the same rookie class 14 years ago and are the lone two from the class to stick with the Globetrotters for that duration.
“Once we saw that we ended up liking what we’re doing and we’re changing lives and going to so many different countries and people are acknowledging the Globetrotters and once you see the impact that it had on the fans, that’s when I knew that I’d be in it for the long run,” Christensen said.
Of those highlights, Christensen said visiting Jerusalem is high on that list because his mother always wanted to go there. He loves visiting the troops overseas and recently, the Globetrotters did a military tour in the Middle East and he met a man from Missoula in Afghanistan.
The Globetrotters often visit hospitals as well for kids who can’t make the games, another side of the job where Christensen finds enjoyment.
The weirdest part of suiting up on Monday for Christensen was dressing out in the visitor's locker room. But even that couldn’t hide the familiarity of the recently turned 40-year-old former Grizzly from enjoying his homecoming.
“More than anything I remember the people,” Christensen said. “The people are so nice and so welcoming. They’re looking to help you anyway possible. It feels good being back.
“I’m doing something I love to do. For it to come full circle with me and this as my job and to come back to Montana in Missoula is unbelievable.”