By Janice Malone
NASHVILLE, TN — It’s that time of year. Once again, the world famous Harlem Globetrotters are coming to Music City this Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, to face off against their long-time adversaries, the Washington Generals, when they bring their one-of-a-kind 2018 “Amazing Feats of Basketball” World Tour. The Globetrotters will go up against a revamped, tournament-tested Washington Generals team—who are looking to snap a 47-year losing streak against their world-famous rivals. There will be two shows – 2pm and 7pm.
The team has had an epic year using their incredible long-distance shooting skills to set a new Guinness World Records title, for the most half court shots made by a team in one hour. The team also established a new title for the highest upwards basketball shot-as part of the 13th annual Guinness World Records Day, when Globetrotter star Thunder Law made a shot from 50 feet, 1 inch. Incredible!
But before Saturday’s big game Globetrotters El Gato Melendez and Swish Young arrived in town earlier this week. They paid a visit to the Nashville Christian school to have fun with the students and teachers.
In addition to the on-court action, the Globetrotters, known worldwide as the Ambassadors of Goodwill™, are continuing to give back in communities around the country through The Great Assist initiative, which launched in October of 2015 and pledges to 100 million smiles around the world with acts of kindness.
Shortly before leaving for the Nashville Christian School, El Gato, who’s been with the basketball kings of comedy for five years, had a quick and fun chat with the Tribune. El Gato says he actually got the chance to play tourist during his visit this time around. “I love coming to Nashville,” he says. “The people show us so much love here. I got a chance to eat some good downhome BBQ. Watched some football and enjoyed the beauty of the city.”
El Gato is originally from Puerto Rico, where he still resides. The catastrophic devastation from Hurricane Maria affected him and his family like so many others on the beautiful island. “Yes, it was pretty bad. But things are getting a little better. It was a little slow but we’re doing better,” he shares.
El Gato had the dream of being a professional basketball player at age six. That dream finally came true when he joined the European Basketball League, which allowed him the opportunity to play throughout Europe in countries such as Luxembourg, Germany, Holland and Ireland. Surprisingly, El Gator says he never saw an actual Harlem Globetrotters game in person, until he actually did a tryout for the team. “No, I’m not kidding,” he says with a laugh. “The first time I saw them play was on the old ‘Scooby Doo’ cartoon show. For a long time, I thought the Globetrotters were just cartoons only. I didn’t know they were real people until one Sunday afternoon when I saw them playing a game on TV.”
The Globetrotters are all about having fun while on the hard boards but El Gato says when it comes to trying out for the team it was no easy task. Fun time was over. “It was a hard tryout…And after getting hired it was not easy going from playing competitive-style basketball to learning all of the tricks that the Globetrotters do and playing basketball on more of a show level. It took patience but once you learn it all, it’s a lot of fun.”
The legendary Harlem Globetrotters combine athleticism, theater, and comedy in their own unique style of play. Over the years they have played more than 26,000 exhibition games in 122 countries and territories. El Gato says nowadays the team averages about 450 games per year. Such a hectic travel schedule obviously takes away a lot of time with family and friends. So, during the little off time that he has, El Gato enjoys spending time with his family back in Puerto Rico. He says: “It’s a big sacrifice but at the end of the day, we bring a lot of smiles to people all over the world and that makes it all worthwhile.”
So, Nashville get ready. El Gato says he and his teammates are bringing a lot of fun and laughter, some new dunks and tricks, plenty of comedy and their trademark interaction with their fans.