Harlem Globetrotters’ “Hawk” and “El Gato” dribbled a Nerf basketball into Mayor Jim Kenney’s City Hall office Monday afternoon and presented him with an original throwback jersey, in recognition of the team’s 90th anniversary season.
The Globetrotters are in town to celebrate 90 years of sportsmanship and service to millions of people in displaying their dunks, trick shots and memorable ball moves during a world tour that now brings them to Philly.
While they were at it, the Globetrotters taught the mayor a few basketball tricks, which included spinning the ball on the tip of Kenney’s index finger and bouncing off of his backside – all of which made for great hoopla and fanfare for cameras on the day Kenney had a Police Athletic League (PAL) student tagging along with him.
The Globetrotters will be at Temple University’s Liacouras Center Friday and the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, and they make several more stops in town before heading to Atlantic City later in March.
“We’re celebrating our 90th year, so, we brought back our retro jersey, and we want you to have it,” Hawk said to Kenney, who graciously accepted.
There are some who think the Harlem Globetrotters are just about tricks and making a mockery of basketball, Hawk said, though he doesn't believe that to be the case.
“We’ve been all over the world playing basketball," Hawk told Metro. "For us, we love what we do. We get to spread joy and hope to kids who may not have the opportunity to really see their dreams come true. Everyone has their own story how they became a Harlem Globetrotter. It’s not all about tricks and games – you have to be an athlete. I can do just about anything you can imagine in the air with the ball.”
The mayor was a good sport. He attempted every trick Hawk dared him.
“They’re top-flight athletes who do great work in the community. More importantly, they bring great joy to people,” Kenney said of the performers.
“The NBA is a product which has always brought joy, but these guys bring joy wherever they play. That’s what they’re all about, and we’re all about giving kids great role models to look up to in sports, which isn’t always the case.”
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, El Gato said he would venture two miles from his home just to shoot hoops. He said he asked his father one day for a shortcut to the court, and his dad told him to cut through the nearby sugar cane field.
“I don’t know if anybody has seen sugar cane, but it’s taller than me, and its kind of spooky in there,” he smiled.
El Gato shared the origin of his nickname, which translates to "The Cat," in Spanish.
“I go down after school, I drop some ham (from a sandwich), and next thing I know there are four cats following me all the way to the basketball court. That’s how my friends started calling me El Gato,” he said.
Kenney’s PAL tagalong for the day, Ziara Singleton, said that Kenney was very “sweet” and “protective” of her throughout the day.
“I’m thinking about making this my career goal,” the 16-year-old said of city politics. “I’m glad that I got to spend my day with him.”
Singleton, a junior at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, participated in the annual Lockheed Martin PAL day of mentoring at City Hall, where 25 area high school students hung out with public officials for the day to see their government at work.
The world-famous team will play 10 games in the area from March 4 through 12 and have players in Philly for goodwill visits during that time.