Written by Rick Karas Friday, 17 February 2012 00:00
They’ve been entertaining crowds around the world for 86 years, dazzling millions with their unique style of basketball, sending folks home with smiles on their faces (unless you’re a Washington Generals’ fan). The Harlem Globetrotters are back in town, getting ready to play a couple games at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 19. Well, not games really, more like performances, with shows slated for 1 and 5 p.m.
Before taking the court with his teammates, one Globetrotter paid a visit to students at Old Bethpage Elementary School on Wednesday, Feb 15. ‘Slick’ Willie Shaw stopped by, happy that the Globetrotter tour has brought him close to home.
“I haven’t had a chance to perform in New York in a couple years, “the 29-year old Bronx native and St. John’s grad said. “It’s good to play in front of my people.”Shaw came to the school as part of his team’s “C.H.E.E.R. for Character” program, a way to apply lessons learned on the court to everyday life.
“CHEER stands for Cooperation, Healthy mind and body, Effort, Enthusiasm and Responsibility, Shaw said. “We try and instill these values into youth now, so they can carry these things day-to-day and become a better person.”
Hundreds of kids packed the school gym to get a glimpse of the 6’6” Shaw, and listen to his motivational message. CHEER is a variation on what students learn in the classroom, but hearing it delivered by a Harlem Globetrotter helps the message sink in just a bit more.
“I think [Shaw’s message] aligns itself beautifully, and when [kids] don’t hear it from the classroom teachers and the principal, and they hear it from someone who’s out there in the media, I think it impacts them and the way they think of things,” said school principal Suzanne Gray.
Of course, no Globetrotter event would be complete without a little hardwood magic. Shaw performed his dizzying array of ball handling skills, and got students involved too. Behind the back, under the leg, spin it on your finger - Slick Willie passed them the ball, and kids did their best ‘little Globetrotter’ impression.
Shaw takes his role as a Globetrotter seriously, as Old Bethpage Elementary is just one stop as he travels the country as a goodwill ambassador.
“We go to schools, interact in our community, go to children’s hospitals, try and brighten up kids’ days and touch young people’s lives, “ Shaw said.
And on the court, it all comes together as the Globetrotters do what they do best: entertain and make people C.H.E.E.R, with a little basketball along the way.
“I like to have some fun with it, not just lecture, but interact and have some fun,” Shaw said. “Smiles are priceless and that’s what the Harlem Globetrotters are about.”