For generations of basketball fans and Americans, the Harlem Globetrotters have been an iconic representation of sports and entertainment.
This week, they brought that flavor to Issaquah and 24 Hour Fitness for a series of youth camps aimed at teaching the basics of the game and more importantly, how to face some of the most important issues youngsters deal with every day.
William “Bull” Bullard and Anthony “Buckets” Blakes were the two Globetrotters in Issaquah to share the organization’s vision on bullying prevention, healthy living and a positive approach to peer interaction.
Blakes, who played collegiately at the University of Wyoming before spending time in the NBA Developmental League and playing professionally in Europe, said he is one of ten children and has six younger siblings. His role as an older sibling and role model for his own brothers and sisters is a huge part of his message to campers.
“I knew I wanted to give back,” he said.
Now in his 11th year with the traveling basketball show, Blakes said he has been to 72 countries, visited more than 400 schools and had the opportunity to speak with countless youngsters about real life problems and challenges.
“I’ve had the chance to impact a lot of kids,” he said. “80 percent of our fan base is children.”
Steve Lanius, a former Issaquah resident who now lives in Bonney Lake, said he took his son to watch the Globetrotters play a game in Kent when they visited recently and the nine-year-old was immediately taken with the same athleticism and panache that captured him decades before.
“He loved it,” Lanius said. “We thought this would be great to be able to come train with the team.”
For the youngsters on-hand, the camp was a chance to interact with figures from a truly iconic American sports brand and for Blakes and Bullard, it was even more.
“I don’t think they know they make us laugh more than we make them laugh,” Blakes said. “Some kids are shy at the beginning and by the end they come out of their shell and are yelling and screaming. It is just a fair exchange of positive energy from the Globetrotters to the kids.”