Harlem Globetrotter stars TNT Lister and Zeus McClurkin represented the Globetrotters on a recent eight-day goodwill trip around the central Asian country of Uzbekistan as part of the U.S. State Department’s Sports Envoy program.
The Globetrotter duo presented basketball clinics, as well as their anti-bullying school program (T.E.A.M. Up) in cities across Uzbekistan, including the capital city of Tashkent, as well as Chust, Namangan, Andijan, Margilan and Kuva (Uzbekistan is roughly equivalent in area to the state of California).
“The visit from the Harlem Globetrotters to Uzbekistan is part of a wider Sports Diplomacy initiative developed in cooperation with U.S. Embassy Tashkent and the Uzbek Ministry of Public Education. The T.E.A.M. Up campaign in the Fergana Valley was very well received by the schools in the regions and we hope that such events will continue to highlight the productive cooperation between Uzbekistan and the United States,” said Alan Meltzer, Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent. “The Globetrotters represent the best of American culture and values: they demonstrated what it means to be part of a team, and how much more we can accomplish when we work together. TNT Lister and Zeus McClurkin won the hearts and minds of the people of Uzbekistan, proving that people-to-people diplomacy is the most effective way to develop partnership and cooperation.”
In addition to presenting the clinics and the T.E.A.M. Up program, TNT and Zeus were able to experience a great deal of Uzbek culture. In Margilan, they received a rare tour of the Yodgorlik Silk Factory, where supremely skilled artisans do beautiful work to produce silk scarfs, carpets and quality garments by hand. Their visit to schools in Kuva and Margilan included gifts of traditional Uzbekistan clothing called a Chapan - a long robe.
The Globetrotters were greeted at each stop with music, dance and traditional round loaves of bread known as non. They were also greeted in each city with a traditional gesture of the right hand over the heart, which is a symbol of huge respect and honor and can be used when saying hello, goodbye and thank you.
On their final day of the tour, TNT and Zeus were able to check out the sights in historic Samarkand, the oldest (2,750+ years) and second-largest city in the country with a population of more than 800,000. The city features amazing architecture from past centuries and warm, welcoming people, as was the case at every stop throughout the country.
The Globetrotters will return to Uzbekistan as a full team to play three games against the Washington Generals at Humo Arena in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on May 26, 28 and 30. This trip, which marks the team’s 124th country or territory visited, will break the team’s current GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for most countries played in by a basketball team (123).
The Globetrotters have a well-established history of working alongside the U.S. State Department and serving as Ambassadors of Goodwill around the globe, dating back to 1950. One of the most unforgettable moments took place on August 22, 1951 in Germany, when the Globetrotters played before 75,000 people in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on behalf of the State Department. Olympic hero Jesse Owens accompanied the Globetrotters on that historic day, returning to the site where he had won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Shortly after the game, the Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, acknowledged the Harlem Globetrotters as “ambassadors of extraordinary goodwill.”