Keith Dawkins recalls watching the Harlem Globetrotters when he was growing up in New Jersey. Seeing the iconic basketball tricksters astound sold-out crowds was a pivotal part of his childhood, as it was for many other Black children across the country at the time.
“[Watching] TV and sports and seeing athletes on the screen who looked like me, that was a powerful thing for me as a little boy,” says Dawkins, 52. “I saw Meadowlark [Lemon] and Curly Neal doing things I could never imagine you could do with a basketball in front of a crowd and lighting them up.”
After spending much of his professional career in leadership positions at companies like Viacom, the Ridgewood native and Ramapo College graduate sprang at the opportunity last year to lead the legendary Globetrotters and parent company Herschend Entertainment Studios as president.
Dawkins and the organization have found ways to bring attention back to the exhibition team, such as an NBC series, Play It Forward, which aired in late 2022 and showed the players participating in their communities.
But Dawkins insists the exhibition games will remain a staple, with their 2023 world tour running through May. There are three stops in New Jersey this month, beginning with Newark’s Prudential Center on February 16.
“It’s a fan base that has a big appetite for the type of product we have,” Dawkins says of the significance of Tristate area stops. “They know basketball; they love to be entertained; it’s good, wholesome fun for everyone. The Prudential Center has always been an important stop for us.”
The Globetrotters also play at Trenton’s CURE Insurance Arena on February 18 and Atlantic City’s Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall on February 20.
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