By Taylor Milligan
Tyrone “Hollywood” Brown stood smiling at the front of an intimate Fayette County Library conference room. Curious, gazing eyes of parents and youth looked right back. The energy in the room was quiet, but friendly and everyone seemed to be sharing the same thought. Exactly what story was this tall man in a red, white, and blue tracksuit and trusty Wilson basketball tucked under his arm going to tell them today?
Former Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Brown travels the country every summer to tell not exactly “a” story, but rather his story. From his humble beginnings to the heights of fame (he earned his “Hollywood” nickname from his acting days that included a spot in a Michael Jackson video) and his current passion of reaching children as an author and motivator, he captivated the crowd.
Before he uttered a word about his past of traveling the world or learning to play hundreds of games mixing basketball and theater, Brown made sure to introduce the motivational topic of the day: Building a Better World by Building a Better You.
“In this story you’re going to hear words like determination, persistence, and hard work,” Brown explained to the youth and parents of the county.
No more perfect words could sum up the athlete turned entertainer’s story. Brown starts his personal tale on his early life living in Savannah.
“I actually saw the Globetrotters play when I was nine years old on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and I was mesmerized,” Brown described.
The very next moment, Brown ran to his mother and begged to be of course, a Harlem Globetrotter like the ones he just saw on television. His mother never turned him away, but rather told him plainly that all he needed to do was stay in his books and take care of his body and he could do it.
Brown then took a piece of paper and scribbled down, “I’m going to be a Harlem Globetrotter” on the slip. He placed the paper on his dresser and looked at it every day. His goal was set, and, even at nine, he had an unbending determination to achieve his dream.
Fast forward to age 14. Brown meets an actual Harlem Globetrotter face to face. Gator Rivers serves as Brown’s mentor and teaches him the basic basketball hand tricks and slides the entertainers perform in their shows. Even though Brown wasn’t ready age-wise to play on the team, his relationship with Rivers plays a pivotal role in his future success.
While taking a six-year hiatus after high school, Brown spent his time in the local gym shooting over 1,000 jump shots a day. Practicing one day in the gym, he finally got that opportunity. Brown went on to play college ball for Draughons Junior College on a scholarship where his team broke national records.
His outstanding performance attracted the attention of NBA teams and in total Brown received tryout offers from 10 NBA and CBA teams. He was cut after every two-week tryout camp for every team. In just two years, Brown was cut a total of 14 times in his basketball career.
“Did I give up?” Brown asked the crowd. “No, because I was persistent and I have a goal that I wrote down at 9 years old: I want to become a Harlem Globetrotter
Cue Gator Rivers. In one phone call from Rivers, that piece of paper with Brown’s dream became a reality. There were more obstacles, including getting cut again and a stint for their regular opponent, but Brown finally became a Harlem Globetrotter. Just like that, Brown’s journey reached its goal, but for Brown, that’s when the fun began
“I traveled around the world three times, but now it’s time for me to entertain with something kids can relate to” Brown said.
The library conference room filled with applause. After bringing up a kids and teaching them ball tricks, sharing some fun facts about the famous team, and answering the curious questions from around the room, their time with the lively former Globetrotter was coming to an end.
That single question on the minds in the room was more than just answered, it was backed with a message that will hopefully impact their lives.
“I really do believe that each and every one of you guys has a story to share, and I’m hoping you can inspire someone else with it,” Brown said.