The Harlem Globetrotters are synonymous with entertainment and dazzling displays of basketball skill. But they're also known for something else: serving as positive role models through community outreach.
Buckets Blakes, an 11-year veteran of the team, was in Fort Wayne on Dec. 12 to speak to students at Queen of Angels Catholic School about bullying prevention. The team will be in Fort Wayne on Sunday to play a game at Memorial Coliseum as part of the “You Write the Rules” tour.
Blakes, who is 36, says community outreach “comes with the territory, but we love it. I've been mentoring kids since 2000.”
He said the Globetrotters scouts look for “great basketball players, great athletes,” but they also look for good role models. “You know what you are signing up for,” he said. “You're a Globetrotter in the uniform or not.”
Blakes spoke to the Queen of Angels kids about “The ABCs of Bullying Prevention,” which focuses on action, bravery and compassion. The Globetrotters designed the program in coordination with the National Campaign to Stop Violence.
With participation from the kids, not to mention a demonstration of the team's signature ball-handling skills, Blakes engaged students with gentle humor and entertaining messages.
Asked about his own experience with bullying growing up in Phoenix, Blakes said “there were bullies around when I was a kid” but he was able to laugh himself out of most situations.
He grew up in a family of 10 kids — he was the fourth — and credits his parents with getting the kids involved in positive activities. After earning an associate's degree at Arizona Western College, he went to the University of Wyoming, where he was team captain and MVP his junior and senior seasons. After college he played basketball in Cypress and Finland.
When he returned home to the states, within about two or three days, a Globetrotter scout gave him a call. He tried out, made the team and now impresses fans with his skill at making four-point shots.
Also, Blakes and fellow basketball star Jason Kidd share the Guinness World Record for sinking two underhanded half-court shots in one minute.
Blakes doesn't know how many seasons he has left with the Globetrotters, but he said, “I have been taking great care of myself.” He doesn't eat red meat or pork.
After the Globetrotters, Blakes, who has been married six years and has a son and two daughters, has a “whole list of things” he wants to do.