LITTLE basketball fan Sam Gratton got a big surprise when a Harlem Globetrotter made his dream come true - by teaching him their ball spinning signature moves, writes Graham Walker.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video report.
The basketball wizards will entertain families when their world tour arrives next year at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.
Ambassadors Slick, one of the team’s top ball handlers, and Mighty, a rare female rookie signing, dropped in to the city on a promotional visit to give a workshop for young Sheffield Sharks players at the English Institute of Sport.
But The Star gave one lucky reader and a guest the chance to sit in on the session, which also included a fun-packed demonstration of crazy finger-spinning ball tricks, games and skills which have wowed fans around the world.
Winner Michael Eyre, aged 40, took along his stepson, Sam, 10, who plays for Brockwell Junior School basketball team, in Chesterfield.
And 4ft 6ins Sam couldn’t believe his eyes when 6ft 6ins Slick got him to spin the ball, Globetrotters-style, on the end of his own finger.
Sam said: “Wow. That was amazing. When I grow up I’d like to be a Harlem Globetrotter.”
Dad of four Michael, of Newbold, who owns his own IT media company, said: “We’ve only seen the Globetrotters on TV and the internet. But now we can’t wait for the show in Sheffield.”
Bronx born Slick, 30, is famed for spinning two balls on different fingers at the same time during the Globetrotter’s crowd-pleasing ball tricks exhibition before every match, called the Magic Circle.
He said: “I think we’re looking at a future Globetrotter here, my man Sam. And we’ve also been impressed by some great talent we’ve seen coaching the Sheffield Sharks young players.”
Slick said of the show coming to the Arena on March 26: “The Harlem Globetrotters always put on an amazing live show. It’s great family entertainment. And I’ve not lost since 1971. Don’t miss it.”
Mighty, aged 23 and just 5ft 6ins, said: “Being the eleventh woman in 87 years of the Globetrotters is an absolute honour. I want all girls out there to know nothing is impossible with a dream and commitment. I really enjoy seeing the kids so excited about us.”
They follow in the footsteps of legends like Curly Neal, Meadow “Meadowlark” Lemon and Sweet Lou Dunbar.
Today’s modern day greats include Special K Daley, Big Easy Lofton, Flight Time Lang, Dizzy Grant, and Scooter Christensen – along with TNT Maddox, another of the Globetrotter’s first female players in nearly two decades, plus 7ft 8ins Tiny Sturgess, the Guinness World Record holder as the World’s Tallest Professional Basketball Player.
The Harlem Globetrotters, who always enter the court to their signature tune, Brother Bones’s whistled version of Sweet Georgia Brown, are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater and comedy.
But they have a reputation for rarely losing a match.
Slick laughed: “I haven’t lost since 1971. You do the math.”
Renowned worldwide for their top class basketball tricks and one-of-a-kind family entertainment, they perform to thousands of people in hundreds of countries every year, continuing the team’s legacy which began in 1926.
Over the years, as well as breaking basketball records, the teams have broken social and cultural barriers – featuring on the cover of Life magazine in the 1940s, becoming the first basketball team to play in Europe and selling out a tour of the Soviet Union during the Cold War in 1959 to mention just a few.
The Harlem Globetrotters are bringing their new show, 2013 You Write The Rules World Tour, to Sheffield Motorpoint Arena on Tuesday, March 26, 7.30 pm.
For the first time ever, as the name implies, fans will decide the rules for the game that could affect the final outcome. This could be anything from playing with two basketballs at once, to getting double the points for each basket made.
Go online to vote for which ground-breaking rule you want to see implemented in the game and find out more about the Harlem Globetrotters at www.harlemglobetrotters.com.
Tickets, subject to a booking fee, are £12.50, £19, £25, £40 and £250 Court side Experience. Buy in person, call 0114 256 5656 or visit www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk.