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Harlem Globetrotters bring joy to Beijing kids

Updated: 2012-04-26 12:14
By Yan Weijue (

The gym at Beijing Runfeng School turned into a sea of jubilation as the faculty welcomed a visit by the Harlem Globetrotters, one of the most well-known basketball teams in the world.

Three of the 29-member exhibition squad, Handles Franklin, Paul Sturgass aka Tiny -- the world's tallest pro baller at 7'8" -- and Buckets Blakes, taught the crowd of more than 100 some skills such dribbling, passing, and layups, in a two-hour training course, the fifth leg of their five-day tour of the capital.

Harlem Globetrotters bring joy to Beijing kids

Buckets Blakes, left, Paul Sturgass (C) and Handles Franklin of the Harlem Globetrotters teach a girl how to spin the ball with one finger during a drill at Beijing Runfeng School on April 25, 2012. [Yan Weijue/]

Widely known for their wizardry, the players also provided a fair amount of joy as they picked people in the stands, including a teacher, and asked them to imitate some of their signature tricks on the court.

So it was no wonder the crowd burst into big laughter when a peer said hello to them before he threw the ball behind from between his legs, and another found it impossible to slap a high-five with the giant Tiny, who raised his hand to the sky, and another wagged his behind after circling the ball around his waist and legs.

Yes, the philosophy of the Harlem Globetrotters is that the game could be, and should be, entertaining.

"It's all fun. It's about bringing family together. About putting smiles on their faces," says Handles Franklin, the most vivacious of the trio. "China has the greatest fans in the world. They are all energetic and excited."

Beyond basketball

The final phase of the drill was, to the slight surprise of some, a lecture on life.

Franklin used himself as an example to explain how important it is to stick to one's goal. The 30-year-old was captivated with the dazzling Globetrotters when he first saw them on TV when he was only 6 years old. Growing up in a poor neighborhood in Harrisburg, Pa, he worked as hard as he could toward his dreams in the next two decades, before he became one of the world's smoothest ball handlers and picked up by the team in 2007.

"Since I saw them on a cartoon, I never want to do anything else in my life," he said. "I worked my entire life trying to be a Harlem Globetrotter, just concentrating on being the best. Now I'm here and I'm happy to be one of them."

He added that compared with being a well-known basketball player, it was more important to be a role model "who can tell positive things to the kids in life."

The educational significance was also echoed by Jeff Munn, the team's executive vice president.

"We talk about things outside basketball, like education, about preparing, about practicing, about listening to your parents…and all the things that moms and dads like to hear. That is what we preach," he said. "But at the same time, basketball can be about tremendous fun. So when the players come out, you can see they have a lot of fun and interaction with the kids."

"You want to get our photos with autographs on them?" Franklin yelled out, and continued after receiving a warm response. "Then you must promise me three things. First, study hard. Second, listen to your parents and teachers. And last, keep healthy and drink milk."

According to the team's schedule, they will spend the last day of their Beijing tour visiting a children's hospital and an orphanage.

"We are proud of ourselves being ambassadors of goodwill. So we go all over the world, spreading good cheer and bridging the gap between our cultures," Franklin said.

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