By Tribune staffJune 20, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., June 20, 2019 -- "If you're a nice person, stay a nice person. Don't let people tell you that you have to be mean to make it in this world."
That was the message from Harlem Globetrotter Julian "Zeus" McClurkin as he spoke to a group of middle school children June 11, at the Fort Sill Youth Center.
Zeus told the children his story about how he made it to the Globetrotters, showed them some basketball tricks, signed autographs and took selfies with them.
Carlos Calderon, Fort Sill Youth Center facility director, heard the Globetrotters were coming to town, so he contacted the team about visiting.
"I grew up with the Globetrotters," he said. "They have positive vibes, and I wanted to bring that to the youth center.
Zeus, a 6-foot-8-inch forward, has been a Globetrotter for eight years. He said his teammates nicknamed him Zeus, the Greek god of sky and thunder, because when he dunks the basketball it's like thunder, lightning, frightening. And in his mind, for his god-like physique.
Zeus was introduced to basketball by his older brother, Robert, and cites him as the most influential person in his athletic career. He said basketball never came naturally for him.
He explained to the kids that he was cut at basketball tryouts from the seventh through the 10th grades.
"I didn't make my first basketball team until the 11th grade in high school," he said. "A big reason for that is because people said I was too nice."
His coaches told him he smiled too much, and they hated that. They said that to be good in basketball you had to have a killer instinct.
One coach told him that all he wanted to do was smile and dunk."Today, guess what I get paid to do? Smile and dunk," Zeus said.
After high school, Zeus played his first couple years of college basketball at a Division II program. He then made the team at North Carolina A&T State University, in Greensboro, as a walk-on, beating out 30 other hopefuls. After graduating with a degree in business management, he played professional ball in South America.
He then played on the Washington Generals, which is the team that plays against the Globetrotters.
"The Globetrotters got tired of me dunking on them, so they signed me," Zeus said.
As a Globetrotter, Zeus has played in 26 countries, he said.
"I get a chance to impact people everywhere we go," he said.
The team with its roster of 50 men and women players and three coaches, will play almost 300 games worldwide in 2019.
Zeus is a versatile athlete who growing up swam, played football, tennis, baseball, and soccer.
He holds four Guinness World Records: most slam-dunks in one minute (16), most blind-folded slams dunks in one minute (5), the most behind-the-back 3-pointers in one minute (3), and the most bounced 3-pointers in one minute (3).
At the youth center, Zeus took several volunteer children and put them in a magic circle. He then showed them tricks to try, like bouncing the ball off one's head to pass it, or punching the ball to pass it. The kids picked it up really quick.
What's the best part about being a Globetrotter?
"There are so many, but No. 1 is putting smiles on peoples' faces," Zeus said. The Globetrotters take people back to happy times when their parents or grandparents took them to see the team play
Zeus' advice to young athletes is to be coachable.
"Be the player that the coach never has to worry about, and can depend on when called upon," he said. "I have played a lot of minutes over players who were more talented than me, simply because I was coachable. I understood what the strategy and philosophy was for each team on which I played."
Zeus invited everyone to watch the Harlem Globetrotters play tonight at 7 p.m. at the Great Plains Coliseum. He said he'll be No. 30 on the court, and No. 1 in your hearts.