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At 90, the Harlem Globetrotters still make dreams come true

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Thursday, December 24, 2015, 12:10 PM

Contrary to popular belief, there is a wildly successful team that plays basketball regularly in Madison Square Garden.

The New York Knicks haven’t brought home an NBA title in more than four decades, but the Harlem Globetrotters — who have played annually in the world’s most famous arena since 1950 — have an all-time record of 25,660 wins to just 345 loses.

Entering their 90th season on Dec. 26, the Globetrotters entertain crowds everywhere and give back to communities, whether it be to children at schools or showing off skills at the White House.

Brooklyn-born Brawley (Cheese) Chisholm and his Globetrotters teammate Chris (Handles) Franklin took their talents to Public School 327 in Brownsville — where they put on a show for select students in December.

Chisholm, who attended the school as a kid, spent a majority of his childhood in the boroughs before moving to southern New Jersey for high school, where he played just one year on the varsity squad.

But he played well enough at Western Texas Junior College for two years that he finished college at Ball State on an athletic scholarship with a degree in communications in 2010,

Shortly after graduating, Chisholm was discovered by the Globetrotters.

“As a child you always see yourself being called in the starting lineup, you always see yourself playing to sold out arenas. You dream it like you’re in it,” he said. “The fact that I can be a role model, I can play in sold out arenas…it’s a blessing and humbling.”

His story is common one among Globetrotter stars — the franchise has a knack for finding talented ballers that at times have been overlooked.

Fatima (TNT) Maddox, one of three women currently on the Globetrotters, did not play basketball until she was 13 years old.

“I was wandering around during recess, I stumbled upon a basketball court and I watched some guys play,” she said. “I convinced them to let me play the next game and I just fell in love with it. I picked up really quickly. From then on I didn’t have to ask to play again.”

After college basketball stops at New Mexico State and Temple, along with a stint overseas to play professionally, she was invited to tryout for the Globetrotters in 2011.

“When I first got to the team there hadn’t been a woman in nearly 20 years,” she said. “I felt so honored that they thought I fit the bill and I was able to reopen that door for women to come and join the team again.”

The idea of being a Globetrotter hit Franklin at a younger age than most, thanks to the team’s famous cartoon shows and appearances on “Scooby Doo” in the 1970s.

Harlem Globetrotter Tay (Firefly) Fisher flanked by teammates Chris (Handles) Franklin (l.) and Brawley (Cheese) Chisholm (r.) at the NYC Columbus Day Parade on Oct. 13, 2014.Jennifer Mitchell

“I was six years old,” he said. “I knew I either wanted to solve mysteries or play for the Globetrotters.”

Franklin’s big break came in 2000 when he began appearing in Nike’s freestyle basketball commercials alongside NBA superstars such as Paul Pierce and Vince Carter .

Four years later, his ball-handling skills and trick shot abilities took him all the way to Globetrotters stardom.

One main reason the Globetrotters have been noticeable all these years is because of the legendary Fred (Curly) Neal.

Abe Saperstein originally formed the Savoy Big Five, which later became the Harlem Globetrotters, in 1926.

Thirty seven years later he invited Neal and 124 others to a Globetrotters tryout in Chicago, looking solely for basketball talent, “no hooplah or tricks,” Neal said.

He was one of just five players who made the team.

Neal then became a household name, showing off on the “The Harlem Globetrotters” cartoon show, “Scooby Doo,” “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” and more.

Around 1972 Los Angeles Lakers star and former Globetrotter Wilt Chamberlin was so impressed by Neal that he tried to get him a spot on an NBA roster.

“I was under a five-year deal with the Globetrotters,” Neal said.

“Cartoons and stuff were out so I couldn’t turn loose and I just stuck with the Globetrotters. But I always wanted to be a player in the NBA. Wilt tried, but the Globetrotters wouldn’t let go.”

NBA stardom or not, Neal is grateful for his place in Globetrotters history.

“I had a chance to play with one of the greatest teams in the world as a Globetrotter,” he said.

“We brought joy to people and Europe and everywhere else. It makes me feel good in my heart to know I’ve done something right. God has been good to me.”

nparco@nydailynews.com

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