Interview by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Since 1926, the Harlem Globetrotters have combined their superior athleticism with comedy in more than 20,000 exhibition games in 118 countries. On Dec. 26, they will launch their 2011 North American Tour in Richmond. The Tour has been named “4 Times the Fun,” pointing to the first-ever 4-point shot that the Globetrotters have implemented. Hi-Rise and Firefly talked to Urban Views Weekly on the eve of their appearance as grand marshals at the Dominion Christmas Parade.
Hi-Rise grew up in Westchester, Ill. the youngest of eight children. His brother Randy won three NBA Championship rings with the Chicago Bulls. Hi-Rise graduated from Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he studied graphic design. He joined the Globetrotters in 2004. Some of Hi Rise’s drawings of his teammates have been used in Globetrotter souvenir game programs. He wants to start his own basketball clothing line soon. Following his playing days, he hopes to work with the Globetrotters as a coach.
Being Nicknamed After Coach Barry “Hi -Rise” Hardy: “A lot of people felt my leaping ability reminded them of Barry. I’m honored, because I’ve heard many great things over the years about what he has done for the team and he’s a great coach. But I’m the better Hi-Rise.”
His Famous Dunks: “The crowd really seems to get excited when I do a 360 or when I do my ‘Spider-Man’ dunk. You’ll have to come out to a game to see what I mean.”
Playing for US Troops in the Middle East: “Wow. I couldn’t really believe I was there, and to be there and play basketball made it even more surreal. It was definitely an honor. When we were playing third quarter, a bomb went off two miles from where we were playing and one of the soldiers was like, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re used to it.’ It’s something I will cherish forever. That was an experience.”
Rapper Jay-Z: “I think he speaks the truth, and his music is a big part of my basketball. I use music to help get myself geared up for a game. Jay-Z has a certain style that fits well with sports and entertainment and gets me ready to go.”
Words of Inspiration: “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks, but obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”
American Ambassadors: “One thing about the Globetrotters, not only are we great basketball players and the best at what we do, but we are good people. We travel to schools, hospitals, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, just speaking the gospel, letting them know about the Globetrotters and the history; letting them know that what we’ve done has changed, not only basketball, but the world as well.”
A native of Kingston, N.Y., Firefly grew up watching the Knicks, who inspired him to play basketball in his father’s driveway every chance he could. In high school, he once scored 61 points in a game, earning him praise in Sports Illustrated. Firefly took his talents to Siena College, where he propelled his team to historic victories. Firefly mentors kids and conducts camps in his hometown. When his playing days are over, Firefly would enjoy becoming a teacher.
His Name: “They call me Firefly because I’m one of the shortest players on the team. I’m quick and they say I light it up as soon as I step on the floor. It’s a pretty cool nickname. It definitely speaks to who I am as a person, as a basketball player, and my personality as well.”
The New 4-point Shot: “The 4-point shot is between the 3-point line and half court. It’s the 35 foot ball from the basket, which is 12 feet further than the NBA line for the 3-pointer. That’s a significant difference. It’s a very challenging shot. It’s only going to be activated with three minutes to go in each quarter. Those are the only times we’re able to shoot those shots. We’re hoping this can change the game forever.”
Advice to Kids: “Many kids today lack a strong male role model to lead them in the right direction. Have a goal in life, and do not wait for it to come to you, because opportunities don’t just happen. You have to work hard and go get it.”
America’s Basketball Team: “When they recruited me, I had people like Hi-Rise explain to me what it means to be a Globetrotter. But you really don’t feel it until you actually put on that red, white and blue every night and see the millions of faces every night. To meet people such as Curly Neal, a legend, it really doesn’t get any better than that – the age of 24 to be travelling the world and seeing different cultures. I’m happy I get to do it so I can share my experiences with other people.”
2011 World Tour: “Every state, every city that we visit this year is going to be the best because I’ve never been to most of them. I’ve never been to Richmond. Every time is different. To see things like the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall, there are so many historical things that the Globetrotters bring besides that red, white and blue ball. I’m just very fortunate.”
4 Times the Fun: “You never know what people are going through when they come to watch our games. They could be going through bad times and just those two hours could just lift them up. One of the famous slogans the Globetrotters use is the games last four quarters but the memories last a lifetime. It’s so true.”
Want to Go?
WHERE? Richmond Coliseum
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 26 at 1pm & 6pm
TICKETS: $17, $23, $28, $33, $51 (VIP), $97 (Courtside)
Get them at Coliseum box office, Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.