The legendary Harlem Globetrotters kicks off its Magical Memories World Tour at Minneapolis’ Target Center December 26 at noon and 27 at 2 pm.
This is their 84th consecutive season of touring the world – the Globetrotters earlier this month made appearances in Shanghai and Beijing, China. Their latest tour will take them to over 200 cities in 44 states, the District of Columbia, five Canadian provinces and Puerto Rico, and is scheduled to perform nearly 270 shows through the first week of May 2010.
“We play close to nine months out of the year,” said Andre “Hot Shot” Branch, a six-year member of the Globetrotters. “It is usually a year-to-year thing, from December to December.”
Branch, a 6′-4″ guard who graduated with a communications degree from Baylor in 1995, talked to the MSR December 1 during a three-day stint in the Twin Cities promoting his team’s upcoming visit.
“We are more than a basketball team,” he explained. “I don’t think people really understand the work that we do every single day. Every city that we play in, we come to that city before we play, and go out into the community and do work, and spread positive messages every place that we go. Then we come back and play the game.”
Branch made appearances at several local venues, including Courage Center, a Golden Valley rehabilitation and resource center for people with disabilities, and a Chanhassen school where he spent time with 500 children. He also appeared with Santa Claus at Rosedale Mall and did a ball-handling skit during a break in the action at a Minnesota Timberwolves game.
Spending time with children at Courage Center “really meant a lot to [Branch],” said publicist Molly Steinke of his visit.
The Houston, Texas, native said he got his chance when the Globetrotters were in town scouting talent. “The scouts saw me and invited me into training camp.
It was about 75 guys [who tried out], and they only kept three of us,” recalled Branch, who never dreamed that he would one day wear the Globetrotters’ red, white and blue colors.
“When I watched them, I always fantasized myself as wanting to do that one day. But never in my life did I ever expect this opportunity to come about.
“I wondered how did this all work out, but I guess God had a plan for me,” continued Branch. “Traveling around the world and playing basketball every single day, you can’t beat it.”
Branch finished his collegiate playing career as Baylor’s sixth-leading all-time scorer, and holds the school record for most made three-pointers and second for most three-pointers in one season.
“That’s what I do best – shoot the ball,” he boasted. “That’s why they call me ‘Hot Shot.'”
The Globetrotters over the years have served as goodwill ambassadors, crossing barriers between cultures, societies and people from all walks of life, appearing in 120 countries on six continents, entertaining over 130 million fans.
“The Globetrotters have a rich history – we were the ones that bridged that gap between different nations through the game of basketball,” surmised Branch.
Being a Globetrotter is a humbling experience, asserted Branch. “I have been loving and loving it. Being a positive role model for kids, and going out speaking to them and telling them about my journey on how I had to continue to work hard, hopefully it will change someone’s life.”
Branch also is a self-taught DJ and plays at weddings, dances and other events throughout Houston. “Whenever I am at home, that is the first thing I do,” he says. “It’s my way to relax.” His musical tastes range from R&B to reggae, “and hip hop, of course,” he adds.
He also is involved in a nonprofit community project called the Project Hoops Basketball Organization for children age six to 18 in his hometown. “Most of the time in Houston, there may be something [going on] that is not suitable for kids at a young age,” explained Branch. “What we do is take them in and work them out – I know what it is like when you don’t make that middle-school or high-school team, so they might make their team next year. We also teach them about attitude.”
After his playing career concludes, Branch says he is very interested in becoming a probation officer: “I hope to get involved in something dealing with kids and helping them change their lives around. Everyone makes mistakes, and we shouldn’t hold it against them. The ones who like to be helped, I would like to be in the position to help them get a second chance.”
When Harlem Globetrotters plays at Target Center, it will be an “opportunity to see the team that changed the face of the NBA,” Branch proudly said.
For ticket prices or other information, contact the Target Center at 612-673-0900, or go to www.harlemglobetrotters.com.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.