Ten Questions: Brawley “Cheese” Chisholm
Way beyond basketball
By Erin Bell

Cherokee High School grad Brawley “Cheese” Chisholm has had quite a year. Besides performing all over the world as a member of the famous Harlem Globetrotters, the 29-year-old pro athlete also walked in New York Fashion Week, set a new world record and filmed a video with the international percussion sensation “STOMP.” Chisholm took a break from the court to talk to us about his awesome accomplishments (and that one time he met Muhammad Ali).

The Harlem Globetrotters are famous for their unbelievable ball handling and shots. How did you learn all those tricks?
When I was first recruited, I didn’t know any tricks. So I took a ball with me everywhere I went so I could practice. I brought it to my hotel room, and I would ask my teammates for pointers and just keep practicing. The good thing is there are veterans who will help teach you.

We practice before every game, and we have training camp every year. It’s two weeks, from 8 am to 10 pm, with two practices a day. It’s not so much a training camp for tricks; it’s to make sure we’re in shape for a long tour, because we play almost every day on tour. This year we left around Christmas, and I didn’t come home until June. So camp is a challenging two weeks. But when you’re done – that’s what makes you a Globetrotter, being able to balance tricks and talent.

Cheese-ChisholmHow did you make The Harlem Globetrotters team?
I was recruited by the Globetrotters for my jump shot six years ago. Everyone has different skills – some players shoot or dunk better than others, some know how to do tricks better than others. We all get recruited for specific reasons.

I was captain of Cherokee’s basketball team my senior year – that was a standout year for me. We ended up losing in the playoffs to Lenape High School – that was the year they went undefeated with Jason Thompson, who now plays in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors. He’s a friend of mine. After Cherokee, I went to Ball State University in Indiana. I didn’t have the golden road straight to Division I – I had to go around the corner to try to make it. My passion and faith for the game made me do it, and school kept me motivated.

The Globetrotters play more than 450 games all over the world each year. What’s life like on tour?
We wake up, get on the bus, and depending on what city we’re going to, it could be anything from a two-hour to an eight-hour ride. If there’s time when we get there, you can rest or go sightseeing. For a show, we go to the venue and practice for about an hour before the game, get prepped for the game, and then the game is about two hours. If we have time after the game, I like to go sightseeing with my team. We’re a family off the court. We do a lot together, because we miss a lot at home together. We’re away from family and friends, so we’re a family away from home.

It must be fun to meet fans around the world.
It is. We were recently in Bolivia and Uruguay for seven days – there’s a language barrier, but they understand the game just like they would if they spoke English. There’s a lot more nonverbal communication. Our shows are about that anyway – entertainment, something the fans can enjoy without knowing what we’re talking about.

The Globetrotters seem to love interacting with kids. Why is that?
Growing up, one of my dad-son bonding times was the barbershop. He would take me to get my hair cut almost every Friday after school in Harlem on 116th street. One day – I was probably 6 years old – Muhammad Ali walked in. They closed the barbershop, and I got closed in with him. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the head. I remember that to this day. That’s what made Muhammad Ali so memorable – in just that moment, he had so much presence. Now, that’s what I try to do with kids. If they want a picture, an autograph or just a conversation, I like to do it. I always try to motivate them, send positive vibes and let them know anything’s possible, because kids remember the little things. That’s what being a Globetrotter is all about, being a good player on and off the court.

How did you get the nickname Cheese?
They call me Cheese because I smile when I’m playing – I always did, ever since I was a kid. I love playing basketball. I have fun every day on the court. I’ve wanted to play professionally since I was 6 years old. I always knew I was good enough, though I don’t know if everyone else thought I was! But I always had that confidence. Just like anyone who ever wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, I committed to it.

south jersey athletes, cheese gloebtrotters, harlem globetrotters south jersey, globetrotters, cheese chisholm south jersey, basketball players from south jerseySpeaking of commitment, how did you manage to set a new Guinness World Record?
My teammate Ant Atkinson and I currently hold the record for most three-pointers made by a pair in a minute. We shot 19 to beat Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki’s record. There was a representative from Guinness World Records there, marking everything down. It was awesome, because so many people think the Globetrotters are just about tricks, but I wanted to show our skill set as well. I’m happy to show we’re the best of the best.

You recently filmed a music video with the percussion group STOMP. How did that collaboration happen?
We wanted to bring basketball and natural sounds together to make a beat. What made our job easier was that STOMP already had their routine and rhythm down. All we did was fill in the blanks with our flair, our showmanship, our ball handling. We didn’t stop – everything was one take. That was the part that was difficult – making it all gel in one take. But we did it in eight tries. It came out pretty dope.

You also walked the runway at New York Fashion Week last fall. How do you like being a model?
It was pretty epic. Angela Simmons – Rev. Run’s daughter – designed The Globetrotter uniforms we wore for the world tour. It was a lot of fun, and it was special that we had new uniforms for our 90th year. I talked to some models who were there, and they said it was probably one of the coolest fashion shows they ever did. But it was such an experience meeting fashion designers and getting to feel that ambiance. I’d love to do more.

What does life look like beyond the Globetrotters?
The Globetrotters have kept me pretty busy. I just got back from our world tour in Europe; we did 13 countries in three months. I like to travel. One of my favorite places to go is Australia. – the countryside is beautiful there. The question is, after the Globetrotters, do I still want to travel? I know family is going to be a big part of my life. I’m thinking about coaching or acting too, though I majored in communication, so I might want to go into PR.

August 2016
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