Paul "Tiny" Sturgess' trip to Johnstown this week may be his first to Pennsylvania, but it will also make history.
Don't let the nickname fool you. "Tiny" stands 7 feet, 8 inches tall, and is the world's tallest professional basketball player - part of the newest recruiting class for the renowned exhibition basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters.
It is believed that he will be the tallest man to step foot in Johnstown to date.
Harlem Globetrotters basketball player Paul “Tiny” Sturgess, who stands at 7 feet, 8 inches tall, teases a small fan during a game while fellow Globetrotter Herbert “Flight Time” Lang looks on.
The trick-wielding team will take the court to play and perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Tickets are $14 to $45.
A native of Loughborough, England, Sturgess said he's looking forward to coming to a new place and meeting new people.
"Not many people get to see someone like me," he said, "so it's always nice to come to places like that as part of the tour."
If you go
What: The Harlem Globetrotters
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cambria County War Memorial Arena, 326 Napoleon St., Johnstown
Details: Tickets are $14 to $19 for end seats in the arena, $19 to $25 for side seats, $37 for VIP seats and $45 for courtside seats. They are available at www.harlemglobe
trotters.com, www. ticketmaster.com or by calling the box office at 800-745-3000.
It's also not every day you get to see someone dunk a basketball while still standing on the ground - no jumping or running start required, though Sturgess does have to stand on his tiptoes.
"I'm not quite tall enough," he said, with a laugh.
Despite his height, basketball hasn't always been Sturgess' sport. He grew up playing soccer and golf, and said the diversity in his athletic background has helped him in his basketball career.
"Especially with golf, my hand-eye coordination is really, really good," he said. "That definitely helped when I took up basketball."
And though he weighs in at 325 pounds and boasts a size-20 shoe, you'll never see Sturgess walking or laboring up and down the court because of his size.
"When I speak to people after the game, that's one of the first things they say to me is how well I move up and down the court," he said. "They don't expect me to be able to run. They probably assume that someone 7- foot-8 will be slow as a bear, walking up and down court and stuff like that."
Sturgess enjoys the opportunity to exert his athleticism with the Globetrotters. He said he's happy to be a part of such a "world-renowned team."
"It's a lot of pressure to go out and perform and be good at what you do every night, night in and night out," he said. "Everyone expects the Harlem Globetrotters to be perfect at what they do, so we have to spend a lot of time practicing. But the benefits that come from doing this are just amazing."
Sturgess said he also has a lot of fun with his teammates.
His recruiting class also includes Jonte 'Too Tall" Hall, who at 5 feet, 2 inches is the shortest player in Globetrotter history. The "obvious height difference" is something the two play off of during the show, Sturgess said.
"With all of our teammates, you can see the chemistry we have," he said. "We're friends on and off the court, and that definitely comes out throughout the show... . We enjoy having fun with each other as well as with the crowd."
Mike Silva, the general manager for the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, said the Globetrotters put on a great show that really involves the audience.
"There's nothing in the world quite like the Globetrotters," he said. "Kids walk away with a big smile on their face."
Tricks like Sturgess' dunking ability will be cool for local people to see up close, Silva said. He added that each member of the team has a signature move.
"They're just going to be dazzling to the audience," he said. "There's a lot they can do with a basketball that's pretty remarkable."
Aside from the remarkable feats, a real game does go on during a Harlem Globetrotters performance. However, it's not usually much of a competition, Silva said.
"I think it's fun to watch the opposing team because they're actually trying to play basketball," he said.
Though the game takes place, Sturgess said coming to see the Globetrotters isn't quite like any other basketball game.
"It's going to be much more fun," he said. "If people are having problems at home, or whatever is going on, they get to forget that for a little while and just have some fun with us."
Working the crowd, and entertaining families and fans, is Sturgess' favorite part of playing for a team like the Globetrotters.
"We get to put smiles on kid's faces every day," Sturgess said. "There's not much of a better feeling than seeing people being happy to see you do what you do."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.