PEMBROKE — Shaun Kirk, a former basketball player at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is known or a prolific dunking ability.
High-flying dunks are also what the Harlem Globetrotters are known for.
Monday, the two came together.
Kirk was one of five individuals selected by the Globetrotters in the team’s draft, the first time a UNCP player has been selected.
While the draft picks are often ceremonious — it’s clear none of the other four picks will play for the Globetrotters — Kirk said there’s mutual interest between him and the organization about him joining the team. This would allow Kirk to stay in the game of basketball after his collegiate career, which concluded in March.
“I never really expected the Globetrotters to be a move, because I really didn’t think much of it,” Kirk said. “I was thinking overseas and things like that. But whenever that opportunity came open I was like, yeah, what’s better than that? It doesn’t get any better than that, I feel like.”
Even as the draft is largely ceremonious, 18 past draft picks went on to play for the Globetrotters, including five on the current roster, according to the team’s website.
Kirk’s conversations with coach Barry Hardy, himself a former Globetrotters player, haven’t gone into too much detail because the team’s activities are paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
Other draftees included former Super Bowl MVP Russell Wilson, 2020 World Series champion Mookie Betts, the late actor Chadwick Boseman and viral internet sensation Sister Margaret Ann. Being mentioned in that kind of company was surreal for Kirk.
“It almost feels like an out-of-body experience,” Kirk said. “I’ve never really experienced that, so I was kind of at a loss for words; I didn’t really know what to say.”
Kirk has been well-known for his dunking ability since his high-school playing days at Whiteville, then in the first three years of his collegiate career at N.C. State before transferring to UNCP.
“I think it’s a perfect fit. You think of high-flying dunks, it’s synonymous with Shaun Kirk,” UNCP head men’s basketball coach Drew Richards said. “I think it’s a very smart move by the Globetrotters. He’ll be one heck of a crowd-pleaser, just like he was here, and at N.C. State, and at Whiteville before that.”
“I think (the dunks are) going to excite the crowd a lot,” Kirk said. “I think it’s going to give me an opportunity to make a lot more kids smile, a lot more people and everything, so it’s going to be exciting.”
The Harlem Globetrotters have combined basketball and showmanship since 1926, entertaining an estimated 148 million fans in 123 countries and territories. Before the pandemic, they performed at approximately 400 events per year, according to the team’s website.
“I used to watch the Globetrotters a lot,” Kirk said. “There’s times when my favorite players from the NBA would actually get an opportunity to play with them. I’ve kind of looked at the history of it, and it’s very interesting, it’s a unique type of basketball. I feel like it’s going to be an extremely thoughtful opportunity for me, and it’s going to be different. That’s what I really like about it.”
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.