The high-flying hijinks of the Harlem Globetrotters are returning to the Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville.
The Globetrotters, one of the most famous basketball teams in history, is celebrating its 90th year.
“This is a special year,” said Handles Franklin of the Harlem Globetrotters. “This season we are paying a tribute to the past while creating special memories.” Handles joined the Globetrotters nine years ago. His tenure with the world famous team has taken him to all 50 states and 77 countries.
“I grew up watching the Globetrotters in animation during the 1970s,” said Franklin. “I wanted to be a Globetrotter ever since.”
Franklin studied hard and went on to Lock Haven University, where he used his keen ball handling ability to finish his career second on the school’s all-time assist list and fifth on the all-time steals list. He finished in the top 10 in the nation in assists and steals twice in his college career.
He put himself on the map in numerous television commercials from 2000-2004, free styling with other basketball stars like Paul Pierce and Vince Carter. The mind-blowing talent he displayed in those commercials was part of what brought him to the Globetrotters’ attention. Franklin is known for his trick shot expertise. In 2015, he earned a place in the Guinness World Records record for the farthest kneeling basketball shot made backwards. While kneeling with his back to the goal, Franklin hurled the ball an amazing 60 feet 7.5 inches on Nov. 12, 2015 to set a world record.
Franklin travels 300 days a year, playing basketball in all corners of the world. Last year he got an opportunity to visit the While House where he played basketball with President Barack Obama.
“He’s pretty good,” said Franklin. “It was an honor. Of course, you have to be careful when you play the president. You don’t want to foul him with the Secret Service standing by.”
In recent years the team has introduced a variety of new rules and themes to promote the games. Among those new rules is the four-point rule in which a player can score four points for a shot 35 feet from the goal.
While traveling with the Globetrotters, Franklin has taken part in the team’s charity “Great Assist” and “World Vision.” He has participated in basketball camps and helped build a playground in his community. At Basketball Camp, Franklin encourages kids to stay in school and take part in extracurricular activities to keep them out of trouble. Franklin credits his parents, a cop and a nurse, who played a significant role in his career path. He could not play basketball unless his grades were up to standards.
During this 90th Anniversary Tour, many legends from the early days have been making guest appearances at the games. Chief among them is Curly Neal, who played with the team in the 1970s.
The Globetrotters take the court at 7 p.m. on March 15, 2016 at Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. Tickets are still available and may be purchased online at www.tbarena.com.
Photo: Handles Franklin of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters has some fun with a fan at a recent game. Franklin recently set a world record and was honored by the Guinness Book of World records for the longest backwards kneeling shot. (Photo courtesy Harlem Globetrotters)