Basketball is life for Orlando “El Gato” Melendez.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, he often dreamed of a career in the sport.
This took the 6-foot, 8-inch power forward to the University of North Carolina, where he appeared in two Final Fours, in 1998 and 2000.
After college, he went to play professionally in Europe and Puerto Rico.
Yet, seven years ago, the call came to be part of the Harlem Globetrotters.
“I grew up seeing the Globetrotters on Scooby-Doo. I had never seen them play live before I became part of the team,” he says. “By joining, I became the first Puerto Rican to be a part of the team. It means a lot, because there are no barriers in the Globetrotters organization. It’s helped me create memories for a lifetime.”
The legendary traveling basketball team will play two games in Rio Rancho beginning tonight.
The Harlem Globetrotters is an exhibition basketball team that combines athletics and comedy. The team originated in the 1920s and has since grown to tour the world and have philanthropy missions.
In fact, the Harlem Globetrotters have added five new records to their growing list of Guinness World Records titles. The team recently celebrated Guinness World Records Day, which was highlighted by an impressive somersault basketball shot made by one of the team’s biggest stars, Bull Bullard, at a staggering 58 feet, 1.25 inches away from the basketball hoop.
The current tour is called the “Fan Powered World Tour,” which gives the fans ample opportunities to interact with the players.
“This is the best part of being part of the program,” Melendez says. “Being able to meet the crowds and show them to never stop working for their dreams. Each player has a different journey. The commonality among us is that we didn’t stop. We continue to do what we love through basketball. It’s an opportunity I’m grateful to be part of. We are bringing hope to the youth.”