BY: JOSHUA RAMIREZ/Sports Editor
The Harlem Globetrotters are celebrating 90 years in 2016, a landmark Buckets Blake will have the opportunity to celebrate with the iconic franchise.
The Harlem Globetrotters were founded in 1926 by 24-year-old Abe Saperstein, who initially named the team “Savoy Big Five.” It wasn’t until a year later that the team officially became the Harlem Globetrotters.
As an organization, the Globetrotters have spent their 90 years selflessly giving back to the communities around them, taking the responsibility of making people happy and putting it proudly on their shoulders.
The Globetrotters brought some of that trademark happiness to Lubbock on Feb. 9 at the United Supermarkets Arena during a stop on their 2016 world tour.
Buckets Blakes recently told the Plainsman Press what it’s like to be part of such an iconic franchise that has done so much since its inception.
“It’s awesome to be a part of such an iconic organization that’s touched so many lives over the years,” Blakes said in an interview. “Breaking the color barrier in the game of basketball, breaking the gender barrier, introducing basketball to places around the world, and just the overall making people laugh and smile everywhere we go.”
The faces have changed through the years as players have come and gone, but the spirit of the Globetrotters has stood the test of time and continues to thrive almost a century later, something Blakes makes sure the younger players understand and respect one of the most storied franchises in sports history.
“There are some other players on the team that you let know they’re part of something great,” Blakes said. “If they don’t realize it, they need to do a lot of research on the team and what our trailblazers did before we came.”
In celebration of their 90th year, the Globetrotters have pledged to create more 100 million more grinning faces with their Great Assist Initiative, implementing multiple programs including the ABC’s of bullying prevention, SMILE patrol, and C.H.E.E.R programs to help communities around the country. Acts of kindness, Blakes says, is what make the Globetrotters who they are.
“We all wear this uniform with pride,” explained Blakes. “Being ambassadors of goodwill is part of our DNA as an organization. All of us make sure to continue to carry that torch that was lit so long ago.”
As a way to help individuals in their communities, the Globetrotters have encouraged fans to go to GreatAssist.com, where they can bring attention to someone who is trying to better their community to receive help from the Globetrotter organization.
“We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be,” said Blakes “But we try to get involved the best way we can.”
While the Globetrotters have truly built an empire on smiles, there was a somber moment on Dec. 25, 2015, when legendary Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, also known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball,” passed away at the age of 83.
Lemon entertained Globetrotter fans for 24 years and truly embodied what it meant to be a Harlem Globetrotter.
In his time with the team, Lemon was the perfect example of what it truly meant to be a Globetrotter in body and spirit, something the Globetrotters of the present and future will strive to be.
“We say a little something about Meadowlark before each game,” explained Blakes. “We want to make sure that everyone knows he was a huge part of this brand. He was the epitome of what a Globetrotter should be.”
The team put on a high-flying performance in Lubbock, spending the night interacting with fans while cruising to another victory, just as Blakes expected.
“The fans are going to see some phenomenal basketball with a comedic aspect to it,” Blakes told the Plainsman Press in an interview before the game. “We have a lot of fun with our crowd. You never know who we’re going to bring out on the court to take a shot, or maybe even dance with a little.”
The Globetrotters will be back on the road for their world tour, which will undoubtedly take them too many more places and allow them to spread many smiles.
“We’re going to be pushing 300 games in 250 cities, 48 states, and nine Canadian providences,” said Blakes. “I’m always looking forward to our games, because I know it’s a new experience each and every night”