Globetrotter 'Buckets' Blakes talks hoops, community

In leau of the Harlem Globetrotter’s performance in Hickory on Sunday, Anthony “Buckets” Blakes discusses a variety of topics, including his early memories of watching the Globetrotters, his favorite players and his experiences with the team.

Below is what he had to say in a one-on-one interview.

Q: Growing up as a kid, were the Globetrotters something you ever got a chance to see or watch?

A: I got the opportunity to see the Globetrotters when I was 5 years old. It was a lot of fun. My dad had to refresh my memory a little bit when we first talked about it. I have two older brothers and he took all three of us. It was amazing. I remember my older brothers and I all had on overalls. My parents used to dress us the same, so that they could find us. We all had on overalls and hats. We were excited to see Fred ‘Curly’ Neal and those guys do something unique and special with the basketball.

Q: I know you played basketball at the University of Wyoming, but how did you end up with the team?

A: I played professionally. I got drafted into the CBA. I got drafted into the NBA Developmental-League. I played for the Asheville Altitude in its inaugural season. It was a great place to play. I played in Europe after that. A couple of days after I got back from Europe, I got a call from the Globetrotters asking me if I wanted to try out for the team. I got that opportunity and I’m here in my ninth season now.

Q: How was the process of getting into the Globetrotters? Is it a thorough process just like trying out for any other team?

A: It was a very thorough process. What separates us from other teams is there is an extensive background check because we have a reputation to uphold. The Globetrotters have been around since 1926 and brought so much goodwill to the world. They are looking for great basketball players and great athletes, but also great people.

Q: What is the biggest highlight or highlights of your career as a Harlem Globetrotter?

A: You talk about point guards and guys making great assists on the court. The greatest assist that I’ve ever made was having the opportunity to help two foster kids in California find a home. That has probably been the highlight for me. Those kids were great students and great people. They had an opportunity to be blessed with a family. Seven years ago, myself and one of my teammates were actually instrumental in those kids finding a home. That was the greatest for me.

Q: Something fans will see on Thursday is the 4-point shot. How did the shot come about?

A: The 4-point shot was created by the Globetrotters’ organization itself. I think everybody had a little hand in it. It just came out of thin air for the most part. We are always thinking of new ways to be innovative, creative and keeping our crowds coming back. This 4-point shot has been working out very well for us.

Q: I think I saw online that you made the first-ever 4-point shot over water?

A: Myself and Big Easy (Lofton) made the first 4-point shot from boat to boat on the Hudson River. That was big for us. Getting the opportunity not only to make that shot, but we were surrounded by kids from New York school kids out there, as well as a bunch of media.

Q: People understand the entertainment aspect of the Globetrotters, but what are just a few of the things the Globetrotters do out in the community?

A: We have three community outreach programs. We have one called the ‘Smile Patrol.’ We visit about 150 children’s hospitals every season. Our whole goal is to get as many smiles from the kids we visit, despite what they are in there for. We have our SPIN program. SPIN is an acronym that stands for some playtime is necessary. We visit YMCAs, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs and rec centers. We talk to the kids briefly about the importance of staying in shape, and we put them through a few drills. We do that just to keep kids physically active, and try to fight childhood obesity. Then we have our CHEER program. CHEER stands for cooperation, healthy mind and body, effort, enthusiasm and responsibility. Those are the character traits that we’ve showed to kids at over 200 schools this season.

Q: How many games do you play a year? Do you play during a certain time span then take a break?

A: We have well over 300 games this year. We have a North American Tour that starts the day after Christmas and ends mid-April. We have a European tour, where we go to Europe and tour for several weeks, maybe a month-and-a-half. Then, we have a South American tour. Then we go on an Asian tour that goes through Asia, China and Japan. Unfortunately, I don’t know if we are going to get to go to Japan because of the disaster and tragedy going on there. We have a military tour, where we play for the troops. That is usually our season kick-off. That is in late-November to mid-December. Then we have a Middle Eastern tour. We are definitely the ‘World Famous Harlem Globetrotters.’ I’ve been in over 60 countries since I’ve been on the team.

Q: Do you have a message for the fans that will see you in Hickory or who have a chance to see you at a show in the Carolinas?

A: My message to them would be that they can come watch a basketball game that is like no other. Not only that, but it is entertainment that involves the whole family, from 4-year-olds to 84-year-olds to everyone in between. For those two hours, we guarantee them that they won’t be thinking about anything else except for the Globetrotter game. Just to give people peace, joy and happiness for at least two hours each day is what the Globetrotters are all about. The fans will also get a chance to meet us after the game. We sign autographs 30 minutes before we go into the locker room.