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High-flying Harlem Globetrotters come to Kona


The Harlem Globetrotters have been thrilling families and fans with their basketball wizardry for 88 years, all the while innovating the game in exciting new ways. Sunday, the Globetrotters bring their “Fans Rule” world tour to the Kealakehe High School Gymnasium.

It is the West Hawaii debut for the Globetrotters, who last visited the island in 2012 for an exhibition in Hilo.

Last year, the Globetrotters became the first sports and entertainment organization to let fans vote on rules. Since the fan response was so overwhelming, the team is doing it again – but this time with three new game changers:

• Hot Hand Jersey — Each team will have a “Hot Hand Jersey.” The player who is wearing this jersey will receive double points on made baskets.

• Make or Miss — The quarter begins with only two players on the court for each team. When a team scores, a teammate may enter the game. If the shot is missed, the player must leave the court, leaving the team shorthanded.

• Trick Shot Challenge — Each coach has three chances to challenge the other team to make a trick shot. A made shot earns five points; a miss gives the other team five points.

Players scheduled to appear in Kailua-Kona on a split squad include veterans Flight Time Lang and Bull Bullard, as well as female player T-Time Brawner

Bullard, a former college basketball player at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, is making his second trip to the islands with the team.

Reflecting on his 2012 trip — which also marked the first time in two decades the Globetrotters played in Hawaii — Bullard recalled terrific atmospheres at the games.

“Every venue we played had a great crowd,” Bullard said. “Last time we came, it was declared Harlem Globetrotters Day and they even gave us a key to the city. It was a real good time.”

The Globetrotters have been in town just a few days, but have quickly embraced the Hawaii lifestyle and been overwhelmed by the aloha spirit.

Bullard and Lang attempted to surf Oahu’s North Shore earlier this week, and added some patented Globetrotter flair on the water. The results were mixed.

“It was an amazing experience,” Bullard said. “That was my first time surfing and I learned a lot out there. We tried to do some tricks on the surfboards, but it didn’t work out too well. The ball fell in the water a few times.”

While the Globetrotters are known around the world for their high-flying antics on the court, the players also serve as role models for youth and are ambassadors of good will.

The Globetrotters’ games have a rich history in the islands, and even made an impression on a young Barack Obama. The future-president reflected on the experience in the 2005 documentary, “The Harlem Globetrotters: The Team That Changed the World.”

“I, growing up, was living in Hawaii, which didn’t have a lot of African-Americans, and whenever the Globetrotters came to town it was just a wonderful, fun-filled afternoon, but I think it had some deeper meaning to it,” Obama said.

“The players of the Harlem Globetrotters were similar to a lot of black men in that generation — people with enormous talent who could not always show their talent. … The strength and determination of that generation just to survive laid the groundwork for people like myself.”

The Globetrotters visited Noelani Elementary School on Oahu Wednesday to spread the word on bullying prevention. Designed by the Globetrotters in coordination with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, the program focuses on action, bravery, and compassion. Bullard, a native of Detroit who grew up in the foster care system, understands the importance of good role models.

“With that program we get a lot of good feedback,” Bullard said. “Knowing we are changing lives and are role models for these kids is really the best feeling in the world.”

The Globetrotters’ four-day swing features five games, tipping off tonight on Maui. The Globetrotters will then perform a doubleheader Saturday on Oahu before hopping over to the Big Island for their 3 p.m. performance on Sunday. The Hawaii leg of the tour finishes up on Oahu’s north shore Monday.