Harlem Globetrotter whistles into town

A Harlem Globetrotter taught 30 Drive Basketball students more than just a few trick shots Monday at the Richmond Olympic Oval. He taught them the importance of perseverance.

“Just because you do not do something or do not make it does not mean it’s all over. You’ve got to keep trying, keep going, before you get to where you guys need to be,” Tay (Firefly) Fisher told the Grade 4 and 5 players.

Known for the Flybuzz, his signature move, the engaging Fisher had the kids hanging on his every word and move during the brief but rewarding visit in what Drive instructor Pasha Bains called “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Fisher, himself, is an example of the message he delivered.

A multi-sport athlete growing up, the 27-year-old native of Kingston, New York didn’t focus on basketball until his early teens but ultimately became a college hero when he went a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range to lift Siena College past Vanderbilt in a memorable NCAA game in 2008. He was “drafted” that summer by the Harlem Globetrotters, but was ultimately cut. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, Fisher worked even harder and the following year made the team.

“Even though I did the best I could I didn’t make it but the next year they gave me another chance and I did even better,” he said. “And five years later I’ve been to about 50 countries. It’s a beautiful thing. No matter what, we’re all going to fail at times.”

The seriousness of Fisher’s message may seem in contrast to the comedy the barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters are renowned for. But in reality it complements the story of the 88-year-old touring basketball team very well.

Founded in Chicago in 1927, the Globetrotters chose Harlem as their home base the following year—though they never actually played a “home” game there until 1968.

Adopting Brother Bones’ version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" as their theme song, the team set out to entertain fans worldwide with a unique combination of athleticism, theatre and comedy.

Soon, the Globetrotters—displaying jaw-dropping skills—became household names: Fred (Curly) Neal, one of basketball’s all-time greatest dribblers, and future NBA greats Wilt (the Stilt) Chamberlain and Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton among them.

“To be a Globetrotter means everything,” said Fisher. “Everybody wants to play in the NBA and that was my goal at their age (Drive Basketball players) as well.

“There are many great players but to be a Globetrotter takes more than just basketball skills. It also takes showmanship, personality, energy, passion and commitment that not many have and I think that’s what separates us from other pro sports.

“As a Globetrotter you should never be satisfied,” said Fisher, who continues to work daily on making his patented Flybuzz even better. “When you’re following people like Curly Neal, Meadowlark Lemon and Marques Haynes you have to be able to be innovative. That’s who the Globetrotters are, we’re innovators.

“We started the behind-the-back, the alley-oop and the slam dunk and our aim is to continue our tradition of trying to bring joy to people with our personalities and our skills. It’s all about seeing smiles on their faces—just like what we’ve we’ve been doing for 88 years.”

•Basketball fans can catch Firefly Fisher and the rest of the Harlem Globetrotters at two Lower Mainland shows next week: Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at University of B.C. and Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. Tickets are available online at


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