Alumni Hall of Fame Class of 2023


Dallas Thornton, Class of 1968

The basketball career of Louisville native Dallas Thornton ’68 spanned 27 years at Louisville Male High School, Kentucky Wesleyan College, the Miami Floridians of the American Basketball Association and the Harlem Globetrotters. 

He was an All-American and All-State selection at Louisville Male High School in 1964. Dallas shared that while his mother loved sports, his father wanted him to get a job after graduation and gave him a job application. Dallas understood his father’s reasoning but sneaked off to college instead. He shared that his mother was happy he decided to get a college education. His father was not as thrilled, but Panther Basketball Coach Guy Strong made a phone call to him to calm him down and to hear Dallas tell it, that’s how he finally arrived at Kentucky Wesleyan College.  

Dallas was a four-year starter and led the Panthers to two NCAA Division II National Championships in 1966 and 1968, plus a third-place finish in 1967. He averaged 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in his career. He earned first, second and third team All-America honors and accumulated 1,929 points and 903 rebounds.

During his basketball career at KWC, the NBA Baltimore Bullets and the ABA Miami Floridians drafted Thornton. He played two seasons for the Floridians before joining the Harlem Globetrotters. Dallas had quite a career with the Globetrotters, playing 17 years with the most famous players: Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal and ‘Geese’ Ausbie. His time also included serving as a player-coach and team representative. They played in 75 countries, traveled the globe three times and performed before the Queen of England on her 25th Silver Jubilee Anniversary. 

Thornton shared that his most memorable moments as a Globetrotter were visiting the White House three times. President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford invited the team to the Oval Office to celebrate their record milestone of games played in 1974. A few years later, President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter asked them back twice. The first time, Dallas taught Mrs. Carter how to spin the ball on her finger! On the next trip, they performed for the Vice Premier of China and his wife in 1979.

Thornton appeared in several TV shows as a Globetrotter including a two-hour made-for-TV-movie, “The Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.” In 1982, Thornton and the Globetrotters were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their worldwide entertainment.  

At every appearance in America and the other 75 countries he visited, Dallas told everyone about his alma mater, Kentucky Wesleyan College, his education and love for the institution. 

Following his retirement from the Globetrotters, Thornton returned to KWC to finish his bachelor of science degree and served as an assistant coach for the Panthers. While he has plenty of memories to be proud of, Dallas shared that walking across the stage in his cap and gown in front of his parents was his proudest moment in life.  

Still not ready for a relaxed retirement, Dallas spent seven years with the Job Corps, five years with the Department of Labor as a youth recruiter through the Louisville Youth Opportunity Network and 11 years with the Jefferson County Public School System Adult Education Program. Through these positions, Dallas Thornton gave back to his community by assisting young adults find jobs and good careers, education and training. He also helped employers meet their workforce needs by connecting them with skilled, qualified employees.

In addition to his Alumni Hall of Fame induction, Dallas has previously been honored with induction into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame in 2022, the Small College Basketball National Hall of Fame in 2021, and the Kentucky Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural Class of 2013.

Dallas currently resides in Louisville with his bride, Diane Reese-Thornton, and continues to find ways to give back to his community.