The Harlem Globetrotters, who return to Charlotte Saturday, are known for amazing, sometimes comedic feats on the basketball court – but the organization also does a lot of work off the court. Players visit hospitalized children, hold basketball camps, speak at schools, and work with anti-bullying and fitness programs.
Given his history, 6-foot-2 guard Buckets Blakes was already accustomed to working with children in addition to be one of nine kids growing up in Phoenix.
“I actually worked with kids before I became a Globetrotter,” he says while promoting an upcoming show in Greensboro. “It was fitting for me to be a part of a team that had so many programs that worked with a lot of kids – building character, visiting hospitals and basketball camps. I fit right in with that.”
It may be fun and games on the court, but Blakes says there is still work to do considering racial tensions triggered by recent shootings.
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“We have a nice platform as Harlem Globetrotters,” says Blakes, citing the example of the Gainesville, Fla., police officer who decided to shoot hoops with neighborhood kids instead of reprimanding them for making noise. Blakes recently shot hoops with the headline-making kids and Gainesville Officer Bobby White.
“It’s all about having community leaders that grew up in those communities and care about the youth, no matter what part of the world, no matter the demographic. Once you take away the leaders who actually know the area and know the kids (problems start),” says Blakes. “We knew the police officers in our area and they knew our parents. They drive by slow, and say ‘I’m going to tell Ms. Inez,’ and we’d straighten up right away. That loss (in communities) goes with that tension in law enforcement. These officers are relocated to places they’re unfamiliar with. The grandparents and the parents and the kids don’t know them, either. They don’t have communication or that mutual respect.”
When: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Halton Arena, UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd.
WIN TICKETS: To enter to win a family four-pack of tickets to the 7 p.m. show, email CLT@charlotteobserver.com with “Globetrotters” in the subject line and your name, age and city of residence in the body of the email. Winner will be selected at random; deadline is 2 p.m. Friday.