When Buckets Blakes was growing up in Phoenix, he asked his parents for a Nerf hoop.
“You know kids are impatient,” he said.
Mom and Dad didn’t get a Nerf hoop quickly enough, so Blakes “cut a hole in the top of my dad’s hat, flipped it over and we stuck the brim in the top of a door.”
Soon Blakes, who was about 5 years old, was shooting tennis balls through what he recalls as his father’s “bus-driver hat.”
He guesses his father might have been “not mad, just disappointed.” But his mother thought it was funny. She was laughing, and soon everyone was laughing.
Thirty years later, Blakes – now known as Buckets to his fans and Harlem Globetrotters teammates – is still spreading joy with his shooting ability. You can see him and the rest of the team in action Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township, where you can even help create some new rules for the game.
A “You Write the Rules” aspect of the Globetrotters’ world tour allows fans to log on to the team’s website and vote for such game-adjusting rules as playing with two basketballs at once, doubling the points or playing six to a side.
Each quarter of the game might get a different new rule based on the online votes, Blakes said, and for the final quarter, the new rule is decided at the arena by volume of applause. His favorite among the new rules is one that awards four points for a 35-foot shot.
“The Harlem Globetrotters are the most accessible professional basketball team in the world,” Blakes said, citing 270 annual games, as well as visits to about 400 schools and about 300 children’s hospitals. “After every game we sign autographs, and our fans get to write the rules,” he said.
Blakes, who earned a degree in psychology and envisions himself running a gym someday, knows how influential role models can be.
“I had two older brothers, and I wanted to be like them,” he said, looking way back. “One of them would come home from school and he knew how to read. He’d read to us, and then I’d pretend to read. I wanted to read like my brother.”
Knowing he is a role model for many youngsters, Blakes offers this advice “for everyone:” Be the best ‘you’ you can be. It’s tough and hard to reach a goal if you’re trying to be someone else. Try to be yourself.”