In early December, I sat down with Harlem Globetrotter “Buckets” Blakes over some tacos and salsa—the spicy garnish as well as the flavorful tunes playing overhead at Rosslyn’s Baja Fresh. A warm soul with a wide smile, Blakes arrived all suited up and with his basketball perched nonchalantly on his hip. When the behind-the-counter Baja employee jokingly extended his hands for a pass, Buckets playfully tossed the ball his way, afterward posing for a photo with the ecstatic fan.
Buckets Blakes (#15), now in his eighth season with the Globetrotters, clearly enjoys these press junkets he’s sent on as one of the team’s more experienced players. He kept busy during this past DC/VA tour—taking to the ice rink with the Capitals (learning “just how bad he is at hockey”), gift-wrapping at Tysons Corner, surprising Horton’s Kids youth with free eyeglasses and even, to the delight of some Wizards fans, swiping tickets at the Verizon Center (“Hey, I’ve got to make some cash somehow!” he joked). Blakes returns to the area with his teammates next week as they take over the court December 29 at Fairfax, Virginia’s Patriot Center at 7 p.m. and then at downtown’s Verizon Center December 30 at 7 p.m.
The Harlem Globetrotters are as American as apple pie. Who doesn’t hear Brother Bones’s whistled version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” and envision those red, white and blue-clad, towering magicians miraculously spinning basketballs atop long fingers and catapulting balls into the net from a court’s length away? The group, formed by London-born immigrant Abraham Saperstein, evolved in the 1920s on the South Side of Chicago where the original players grew up. The team (then called the Savoy Five) turned professional in 1927, later getting a new name when promoter Saperstein wanted to give the impression that the all-black team represented that mostly black New York borough. Famed for their unique combination of athleticism, theater and comedy, the Globetrotters have fluctuated between playing competitively and for show, resulting in one of the best-known sports entertainment franchises in the world.