By Joe Becker
I met one of Basketball's legends today. The great Curly Neal from the Harlem Globetrotters. Curly no longer plays for the Globies, but he is still one of their best ambassador's. Neal joined current Globetrotter Handles Franklin at the Portland/Gresham PAL Youth Center in N.E. Portland today.
"We enjoy what we do," said Neal. "As long as we can put a smile on kids' faces, make them happy, a warm embrace, a kiss on the head, something like that. It makes us feel proud."
They entertained a few dozen kids and Franklin demonstrated his Ball-Handling skills and talked to the kids about the Globies C.H.E.E.R. program, which focuses on Cooperation, Healthy Mind & Body, Effort, Enthusiasm, and Responsibility, using the acronym 'CHEER." Franklin and Neal are also promoting the Trotters appearance at the Rose Garden next Month.
"I'm a testimony to what I'm doing, truly living a dream," said Franklin. " Since I was six years old, I wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter. I watched them on the cartoons and I said that's what I want to be and spent my life trying to do it."
The 36 year old dribbling showman also spent time to get not only a Bachelors Degree, but a Masters as well from the University of Pittsburgh.
"When we speak to the kids, we like to stress the importance of education," said Franklin.
"You can still do other things but I have a degree to fall back on."
His idol is Neal, who's number 22 has been retired by the Globetrotters. Curly is one of just five players to have that honor along with Wilt Chamberlain, Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon and Goose Tatum.
"It means a great deal to me from the heart," said Neal, who thanked the Globetrotters. "It's just an honor."
Curly was a Globie from 1963 to 1985 and played in more than six thousand games in nearly 100 countries. I saw one of those games as a kid more than 30 years ago at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis.
"Thanks for the memories," Neal told lme. "It's been a treat playing for the Globetrotters all these years. We believe in giving back. We are for families and family entertainment.
Come back and see us and have a great time."
I'm sure anyone, who goes will have a good time. The "Spinning the Globe" tour hits the Rose Garden, February 21st.