Harlem Globetrotter Buckets Blake brings smiles to area kids

Written by Chris Jones
Photos by Liz Lane

[dropcap]Harlem Globetrotters guard Anthony “Buckets” Blake can spin a ball on his index finger for minutes at a time, but there’s no spin in his speech when it comes to encouraging kids at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.[/dropcap]

“This is what we call a ‘smile patrol,’” says Blake, who visited the Norfolk hospital Feb. 19, on the first of several local appearances leading up to his team’s March 2 game  at The Ted Constant Convocation Center. 

“Our goal is to get as many smiles out of the kids as possible. We visit about 300 hospitals a season. A lot of kids don’t get a chance to see the Globetrotters play, or they’re not well enough to be in the schools we visit so we make it a point to come visit them. We’re the most accessible professional basketball team in the world,” says Blake, who is in his eleventh season with the team.

After talking to a group of boys seated at a table, he turns his attention to one of the boys, Holden Minor, a 15-year-old student-athlete who runs cross-country at New Kent High School. “I was supposed to start the season today,” Minor says with disappointment. 

Minor dons a blue hospital gown with a round, white “I love CHKD” sticker on his left chest, a pair of black basketball shorts and white no-show socks. The pair discuss distance running, a sport in which Blake admits he’s not gifted. 

“[Blake] was talking to me about how he used to run track. He ran the 400-meters, but he doesn’t like long distance.” Minor chuckles. He says he’s looking forward to joining his teammates once he’s recovered from his operation.

Minor’s parents, Michael and Bonnie, snap photos and film some of the Globetrotters’ basketball tricks with their iPad. 

“This event is very nice,” says Michael. Bonnie says that it’s their second trip to the hospital. “The staff is so upbeat, very positive. We never feel like we’re a burden; it’s impressive.”

[quote]These kids are fighters; they’re strong and you want them to get well so they can get out of here and go to school or go to the playground and play.[/quote]

Across the room, Blake interlocks his fingers behind his back, creating a circle. The kids watch with wonder. The basketball rotates counterclockwise around his arms and over his shoulder in a continuous loop. The children stare and cheer. Blake approaches a toddler who is nestled in the arms of her father. She’s smirking. 

He extends his hand to her for a five. She turns her head. The room erupts in laughter.

“I’ve been working on her for a while,” Blake says, smiling. “But I’m having fun. I have a job where I can give back. It’s not just about us coming here, but when we come here that energy we get from them. You get an overwhelming joy. These kids are fighters; they’re strong and you want them to get well so they can get out of here and go to school or go to the playground and play.”

Someone calls out to Blake. He shuffles across the room. A small palm is facing upward. He drops his hand on top of it. 

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