Harlem Globetrotter Aundre “Hot Shot” Branch can spin a basketball on his finger, roll it across his back, balance it on his head, then sink it in the basket from 35 feet away.
How does he do it?
“Magic,” he says, with a grin. “You practice. I’ve broken a lot of limbs and mirrors.”
Fans can expect plenty of tricks and a new innovation -- the four-point shot -- when the Globetrotters play at the Civic Center at 7 p.m. tonight.
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Branch visited Dexter Elementary on Fort Benning last month to teach students about basketball, positive life skills and the Harlem Globetrotters. Here’s what they learned:
— The Globetrotters were founded in 1926 in Chicago and were originally called the Savoy Big Five, after Chicago’s famous Savoy ballroom. They later changed their name to the Harlem Globetrotters.
— The team has played in 120 countries -- Branch himself has been to 57. Their largest audience was 75,000 people in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany in 1951. Their smallest? Just one -- the Pope.
— There have been eight female Harlem Globetrotters. The first was Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodward, who signed in 1985.
— The Globetrotters have won more than 25,000 games, but it takes a lot of practice. Branch has to try out for the team every single year. “As a Globetrotter, my season lasts from September to August,” he said. “I practice twice a day. My body takes a banging, so I take care of my body.”
— The other players Branch admires the most? There are five: Magic Johnson, for his leadership; Larry Bird (“He’s the most unathletic guy I’ve ever seen in my life, but he’s very smart”); Isiah Thomas (“a small guy, but very tough”); Allen Iverson (“a little bitty guy”); and Reggie Miller (“One of the best shooters I’ve seen in my life”).
— One of the Globetrotters’ latest innovations is the four-point shot. Every Globetrotters game features two designated four-point shooting circles on each side of midcourt, located 35 feet from the basket. This is 12 feet beyond the NBA’s official three-point line. “It’s something new,” Branch said.
— The Globetrotters are active off the court as well. Branch visited Dexter Elementary to talk about the organization’s C.H.E.E.R. program, which teaches students about cooperation, healthy minds and bodies, enthusiasm, effort and responsibility. “Why do I do it? Because it’s good to come out and encourage the kids,” he said. “I like laughing and joking with them.”