In the midst of Selection Sunday, Selection Monday and full-blown March Madness, there's only one basketball team that could make this season more entertaining.
On Tuesday, that team is coming to Knoxville. The Harlem Globetrotters are stopping by Thompson-Boling Arena as a part of their 2013 "You Write the Rules" World Tour.
Established in 1927, the Globetrotters have been delighting fans for dozens of years with their non-traditional style of play. Combining a bit of theater, talent and athleticism, the team travels the globe entertaining audiences young and old.
But for "Hammer Harrison" and "T-Time Brawner," the game isn't just about entertainment. Much of what the Globetrotters do ultimately serves a greater purpose.
Brawner, a team rookie, one of two women on the team and only the 10th female to ever play for the Globetrotters, said her favorite aspect of the team is what they do off the court. From anti-bullying campaigns to breast cancer awareness and fund-raising, the team is actively involved in making the world a better place.
"It's stances like that that we take that really make me love playing for the Harlem Globetrotters," Brawner said.
Brawner didn't become a Globetrotter overnight. She was an all-league athlete at Skyline High School where she led her team in scoring, assists and steals, but she didn't stop there. The Oakland, Calif., native tried out some modeling, acting post-high school and earned an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, all while walking on at California State University.
Brawner later became an all-conference selection at the Dominican University of California while working to get her MBA in global business management. She even considered law school but at the end of the day she chose to stick with basketball, knowing she could make a difference.
Unfortunately, the road to playing for the Harlem Globetrotters is sometimes more challenging. For Brawner's teammate, Harrison, just being able to play basketball is a miracle.
Injury after injury, including some time in a wheelchair, marks Harrison's road to professional basketball. It wasn't until the age of 17 that he was able to play basketball, or any competitive sport for that matter.
From there, Harrison worked every day to improve his basketball skills, eventually walking on at Sullivan Community College. The year Harrison walked on, the team went undefeated, making their way to the 2007 NJCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship. He was the team's leading scorer in the their title game.
He went on to play at Hampton University where he majored in computer graphics and where he was discovered by the Harlem Globetrotters.
"My talents were scouted there. They saw me, I was very athletic and I had always been a great person and that's some of the qualities you have to have to be on the Harlem Globetrotters," Harrison said. "They gave me a tryout and I went to the tryout and then we did a two-week training camp, and after that, here I am four years later."
While Harrison has been to around 55 countries during his time on the team, he is now in Knoxville, ready to participate in the "You Write the Rules" World Tour. The tour is something Brawner said she really enjoys as something unique to the team that has been one of the most fun things for the team.
"Never in sports history has this been done," she said. "That means our fans go online and they vote for the rule that they want to see us play in the first three quarters and then there's a live vote in the fourth quarter. The rules can be anything from the 4-point shot, which is 35 feet from the basket and 12 feet beyond the NBA 3-point line, two balls or double the points."
Her favorite is the 4-point shot. Whether she's shooting or watching a teammate, she said it's something everyone gets pumped about.
"It's really exciting to watch that shot go in," she said.
Harrison said he loves his job. He said it's an honor to be a part of a great company that is surrounded by history and tradition.
"With the Harlem Globetrotters, we're our own brand," he said. "There's nothing like it in the world, there's no other sports team that entertains and travels around the world as much as we do. When you mix up a group of people who are role models and ambassadors of good will and put us on that court, you're not getting anything but entertainment."