The Harlem Globetrotters bring their basketball wizardry to the Mohegan Sun

Maybe it was kismet? Dizzy Grant's parents took the then-7-year-old to see the Harlem Globetrotters, and what an impact it made. These clown princes of b-ball inspired Grant to start playing the sport. His parents actually bought him his first basketball at that very game.

How perfect that, some 15 years later, Grant actually became a Harlem Globetrotter.

Grant, now 29, remembers now what made such a big impression on him at that first game.

"Obviously, you see traditional basketball, you see people shooting and dribbling between their legs and everything. But to see what the Harlem Globetrotters can do with the basketball was something I had never seen before - ever. It amazed me to think somebody could do that," he says.

"Now, here I am, I have the same ability to do stuff I saw 20-something years ago."

Indeed, six years ago, Grant tried out for the team and was selected as the new guard. On Christmas morning, he'll head out on the latest Globetrotters tour, which will bring him to Mohegan Sun on Tuesday.

Now, playing basketball is one thing. Perfecting the kind of ball-handling wizardry required of a Harlem Globetrotter is another. To paraphrase the joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall, it's practice, practice, practice, listen to how much training Grant had to do to sink his first 4-point shot:

"That was two months of shooting a lot of 4-point shots. My arm was getting sore, I was shooting so much," he says. "I mean, it's a far shot. It's 12 feet further than the NBA line - and the NBA line is pretty far. That took a lot of practice and just muscle memory of shooting."

While Grant can do all sorts of b-ball tricks - the one where he catches the ball in a dead-stop on the back of his neck is his personal fave - he has added a new element to his repertoire. He does impressions of famous players with distinctive styles. He can do Shaquille O'Neal at the freethrow line and Michael Jordan doing a jump shot. He started out just imitating his fellow Globetrotters, but his gift for mimickry grew into something more. You can see how spot-on he is by watching videos on YouTube.

His Globetrotter career began after he graduated from the College of New Jersey in 2005 and was playing for the New York Nationals. He was approached by Globetrotter owner Mannie Jackson about trying out for the team. He did, taking part in a three-day mini-camp in Indianapolis - lots of traditional basketball drills, followed later by ball-handling razzle-dazzle. The team offered him a contract, and he was on his way.

"I always wanted to play professional basketball. I never just said, 'I want to go play in the NBA, I want to play overseas ...' I always just said I wanted to play professional basketball, and when the Globetrotters presented me with that opportunity, I couldn't turn it down," he says.

One of the great things about being a Globetrotter is the enthusiasm shown by the team's biggest fans: kids.

"I was in their shoes at one point in my life," Grant says. "I was sitting in the stands, watching them in awe. It's definitely an honor knowing I can have a positive impact on people's lives now just playing basketball."

Harlem Globetrotters, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mohegan Sun Arena; $19-$72; mohegansun.com.

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