Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Chef Marcus amazed by Globetrotters global impact

This past February I was lucky enough to have gotten to check out the Harlem Globetrotters on their long-awaited return to Madison Square Garden. The Globies, whose messages of fun and fair play and championing those who are not always in the limelight with many of their players coming from historically black colleges and universities, were always a favorite of Mr. Steinbrenner, and I was so excited to see that they had not lost any of their mojo for the 14,000 fans that were also there.

However, it was not all the high-flying dunks that really caught my attention. It was the footwork, the passing, and the basketball skills of the smallest member of the squad, Jahmani ‘Hot Shot’ Swanson. Standing at 4’5,” Swanson is one of the team’s most celebrated athletes. Born in the Bronx and raised in Harlem, he started his basketball career playing college basketball at Monroe College in the Bronx and when at a Knicks game, spied a vibrant Curley Neal in the crowd. ‘Hot Shot’ told his mom at that point that was who he wanted to aspire to be, and low and behold, his aspirations have come true. An inspiration for youth everywhere, Hot Shot, who loves year-round in Manhattan now, not only teaches kids basketball skills but has helped kids dealing with bullying or “differences” recognize that they control their own dreams and can work to make them real. He preaches practice and inner motivation and often talks about how he was a kid constantly practicing his dribbling and going to sleep with the ball in his hands.

I became even more impressed with “Hot Shot’s” message this past week when I saw him again, this time on the YES App as he joined celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson for a session of the original series Home Plate: New York. For those who don’t know, the series features Samuelsson teaming up with New York Yankees stars and other high-profile athletes and entertainers to visit New York City restaurants specializing in food from the guests’ respective cultures and family heritages. This episode brought Samuelsson, Sylvia’s chef Marcus Woods, Swanson, and teammate “Jet” Rivers visiting Sylvia’s, the world-famous soul food restaurant in Harlem known as “The Queen of Soul Food.”

“Family and traditions like what Sylvia’s stands for are the things I tell young people as we travel around with the Globies,” Swanson said. “Without understanding your past and how we all got here, you can never improve on your future.”

The show was all about the legacy that Sylvia’s has built over decades, which is no different than what the Globetrotters have done, and both align with the legacy that the Yankees have had and continue to grow every week. Seeing these three brands stand together…the Globetrotters and the cooking traditions of Sylvia’s on the Yankees network not far from where the ballpark is today…would have brought a smile to Mr. Steinbrenner’s face, just like “Hot Shot” Swanson does by the way he carries himself through life. I know Chef Marcus is amazed

Oh, and by the way if you missed the show or the Globetrotters this past winter, you don’t have to wait too long to see them again, as they announced the first-ever sports residency, just like what performers do in Las Vegas or what Billy Joel has done at The Garden, which will take place at American Dream in New Jersey from August 16-25. ‘Hot Shot’ will be there to thrill and entertain, and don’t be surprised to see some celebs, maybe even a few Yankees, there as well. I know I will be.

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