published Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Basketball princes

Harlem Globetrotters combine showmanship, athleticism at McKenzie Arena Friday

IF YOU GO

What: Harlem Globetrotters 2013 World Tour

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18

Where: McKenzie Arena, 720 E. Fourth St.

Admission: $20-$100

Phone: 266-6627

Website: www.utc.edu/administration/McKenzieArena

What would a game of basketball be like if the teams were intentionally lopsided? How about if two balls were used instead of just one? What if it borrowed a page from hockey's rulebook and instituted a penalty box?

These and other questions will be answered Friday when the Harlem Globetrotters return to perform the equivalent of a basketball magic show at McKenzie Arena.

For its 87th consecutive season, the storied sporting and charitable organization is letting the people in the seats change the experience on the court with "You Write the Rules." The feature lets fans go online to vote on one of several odd twists they'd like to see the Globetrotters abide by.

"I think it's awesome because our fans get a chance to participate even further than they got to in years prior," said Buckets Blakes, a 6-foot-2-inch guard who is entering his 11th season on the team. "Now, they have some influence into which way the game is going to go."

Clad in their signature red, white and blue jerseys, the Globetrotters have entertained audiences for decades with their comedic antics and razor-sharp skills on the court and as Ambassadors of Good Will with a strong devotion to charitable outreach in the community.

The Globetrotters' current tour began Dec. 26 and will continue until April 21. In that time, the team will play 270 games and visit 100 hospitals. This tour also marks the start of a new educational program, "The ABCs of Bullying Prevention," which the team will bring to about 300 schools.

Part of Friday's game will be played with a pink basketball to promote breast cancer awareness. Pink wristbands also will be sold, and part of the proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Blakes described himself and his teammates as "naturally funny" and "the fun ones in our families." Despite having a lot of fun on the court, however, he said the team takes its commitment to its fans very seriously.

Seeing a Globetrotters game is an experience that often is passed down the generations, and the shenanigans can't get in the way of that, he said.

"We want to be as perfect for our fans as possible," Blakes said. "You have no idea whose first Globetrotters game it's going to be.

"We take it very seriously and make sure we're steadfast in our craft."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@times freepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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