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Wun Versher Starts Letting the Laughter Sink In : Comedy: When he joined the Harlem Globetrotters, he knew how to play. He just had to learn how to play around.

March 18, 1995|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a basketball player, Wun Versher always expected to generate a vocal response from enthusiastic fans. But laughs?

Laughs are part of the game since the former Arizona State player joined the dazzling Harlem Globetrotters.

Take Versher's fourth-quarter shtick in which he holds onto the net to keep the opposing Washington Generals from scoring. When the referee orders him to let go, the ball drops through the net and hits the ref on the head.

The crowd eats it up every time, acknowledged Versher--one of the newest Globetrotters, who will be at The Pond of Anaheim for two shows today.

"That's what people come to see," Versher, 24, conceded by phone from Los Angeles this week. "It was different. I mean, usually people are yelling--they're not laughing--when I play. But it was fun. I started laughing (with the audience) after awhile."

Fans--more than 100 million in 113 countries around the world--have been laughing at the Harlem Globetrotters for 69 years now.

No other basketball team has prompted at least one sportswriter--The Times' own Jim Murray--to suggest that the Harlem Globetrotters are no less than the greatest comedy team of all time and just may have made more people laugh than Burns and Allen, Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis and the Keystone Kops. Combined.

Versher said the on-court shenanigans during what is billed as "the world's greatest basketball show" can break a player's concentration--especially "when you're trying to beat (the Generals) and murder them on the competitive end, then you have to stop and be funny.

"I think that's the most difficult part I had to adjust to coming in: Being competitive and then having to smile; you have to take off the mean face and be funny."

The 6-foot-5 Versher, who has a degree in recreational management from Arizona State, was working at the Baldwin Hills Recreation Center when he was seen last year by a scout at the Pro Summer League in Irvine and invited to the Globetrotters' 10-day camp in Simi Valley.

"It took me at least five days to get the real feel for what they were doing and how they wanted it done, but I got the hang of it," said Versher, who is now on the road playing 200 games a year.

*

Although he loves the show part of being a Globetrotter, Versher said he still favors the competitive part. In fact, he said, most of the Globetrotters still have that competitive edge.

"I think the only one who may enjoy the show part more is (The Showman) Paul Gaffney." Gaffney likes to talk and joke while playing.

"It's a show, but we are playing straight," Versher said. "If we goof around (too much) and are not on our job, we can definitely lose. We wouldn't want that to happen--not while I'm here."

What, and ruin the Globetrotters' 8,300-plus consecutive winning streak?

* The Harlem Globetrotters play today at The Pond of Anaheim, 2695 E . Katella Ave., Anaheim. 2 and 7:30 p.m. $10-$14. (714) 704-2500.

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