“Tiny” goes globe trottin’

The Harlem Globetrotters’ Paul “Tiny” Sturgess is the world’s tallest professional basketball player.

Spencer Doar

What: Harlem Globetrotters

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Target Center, 600 N. First Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $26-129

Ages: All ages

 

In an Omaha, Neb., hotel room, Paul “Tiny” Sturgess faces a common situation involving the bed.

The Harlem Globetrotter has to lay his 7’8” frame diagonally even on the super-size mattresses provided by most hotels.

“It’s not as common really,” Sturgess said, referring to problems with his height. “I’m pretty easy going. As far as planes, they’ll always put me in an exit row or something like that.”

Sturgess, a native of Loughborough, England, who’s been with the team for the past year and a half, is certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest professional basketball player.

But it’s not as though the Harlem Globetrotters need another identifying feature.

The more than 85-year-old American institution is readily identifiable by its cultural capital gathered over the course of its 20,000-game history: the jerseys, the ubiquitous whistling of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the ball tricks, Wilt “the Stilt” before he ever donned an NBA uniform.

“It was very difficult to go from strictly basketball to basketball with comedy and all the other stuff we have to do,” Sturgess said. “But there are a lot of veterans on the team, and they help us out, and we practice every day. We always have to be on our toes.”

The Harlem Globetrotters are more than just basketball on the court and more than just basketball as an organization.

“We are ambassadors of good will,” Sturgess said. “The basketball side of things is only a small percentage of what we do.

The Globetrotters travel all over the world, spreading a message of teamwork and social responsibility. They go to children’s hospitals and schools to actively promote anti-bullying efforts.

On the court, the Globetrotters are street ball on steroids, gathering some of the best talent in the world.

Every player has a specialty, be it ball-handling, sharpshooting, theater or dunks.

“When we join the team, we’re strictly basketball players — I mean, I knew how to spin a ball on my finger but that’s about it,” Sturgess said. “As far as the basketball wizardry, we practice every day working on the craft.”

Sturgess, not surprisingly, is a dunker. His trademark move is the “No Jump Dunk” — Yao doesn’t have anything on this guy’s ease around the hoop.

Making Sturgess’ height even more evident is the presence of the Globetrotters’ shortest player ever, Jonte “Too Tall” Hall, who was drafted by the team at the same time.

At 5’2”, the possibilities for playing with their differences are hard to pass up. Photos illustrating the two-and-a-half foot difference seem Photoshopped.

Overall, it’s a situation that Sturgess is grateful for — allowing him to travel the world, help others and play the sport he loves.

“Basketball has no barriers,” he said. “People come to the shows and have a great time.”