Kevin Daley, otherwise known as “Special K” on the basketball court, is 6 feet 5 inches and full of energy. He has to be, to play the most prominent role on the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters team — “the Showman.” He combines theater and comedy while dribbling a basketball.
Originally from Panama City, Panama, Daley is the fourth Latino to be recruited on this talented circus-like team, which dates back to 1926. He’s also the only Hispanic to have the most prominent role on the court in its history. Daley is mic’d during the entire game, because he has to call the plays and make jokes during the entire performance.
“That’s why my voice is a little hoarse right now,” laughs the 36-year-old who has been living in a non-stop whirlwind for the past nine years. “I wake up around 9, get on the tour bus for the next few hours, go to the gym, play at 7, and I’m completely done around 10…talk to my family, relax, and go to the next city the next morning.”
In a week, he says he could visit seven or eight cities, and he travels about nine months out of the year. Four months out of the year is for the U.S. tour — the rest of the travel is international.
“One memory that stands out easily is when I played for the first time with the Globetrotters in Panama in 2010 — we sold out the arena,” says Daley, who moved from there to Los Angeles when he was 13. “It was great to see the support of the whole country…It was very special to see my family and friends show their support.”
He says he’s currently on his way back to Dallas, Texas, his home base, and where his 7-year-old daughter resides. It’s also the next stop for the team’s North American tour, which encompasses 230 cities and 280 games. In a year, more than one million fans come out to cheer them on in the U.S. alone.
“I fell in love with basketball,” says Daley about when he was a young boy in Panama and vowed to himself he would make basketball his career. “I didn’t know how or where, but now I’ve been living that dream for many years, so it’s been very special for me. I also love to entertain.”
From his favorite athlete, Michael Jordan, he says he learned you can become great with hard work.
“Every summer I would play in different summer leagues with NBA players, because I knew that would attract a lot of attention — so I played my best and the Globetrotters noticed me,” says Daley. “I felt I would be a perfect fit for the team.”
He says the Globetrotters recruited him because of his basketball ability, and the more seasoned players taught him the tricks.
“I had to take it upon myself to get better and better,” says Daley. “Now I’m teaching some of the younger players how to do tricks.”
Slick Willie Shaw, one of Special K’s 28 teammates for nine seasons, says he considers Daley as close as a big brother. Afterall, they see each other more than their real families — practicing together seven days a week.
“Regardless if he is under the weather, he gives 110 percent every single night,” says Shaw. “It makes me want to do the best I can, and keep my energy up.”
A lover of people and what makes them tick, Daley says that’s why he also chose to get bachelor’s degree in sociology from Azusa Pacific University in California.
“I always wanted to make my family proud — especially my dad,” he says. “Every time I did something, I would always think, ‘What would my dad think?’ That was always my motivation.”
For now, Daley says he plans on being a Globetrotter as long as his energy tank remains full.
“After that, I’d like to some motivational speaking, maybe TV, but definitely motivational speaking,” he says.
The Harlem Globetrotters in the Netherlands (1958)