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Sports--One Way to Get Ahead : STERLING FORBES

February 07, 1993|LIBBY SLATE | Sterling Forbes Jr. has been a member of the Harlem Globetrotters since 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he was raised in the Crenshaw district and played basketball for University High School. He graduated from Southwest Texas State University in 1986. Forbes, 29, is following in his father's footsteps: The senior Forbes played for the Globetrotters from 1960-61. Forbes Jr. was interviewed by Libby Slate

Earlier this year, the Harlem Globetrotters filmed a show in South-Central for ABC Sports. It felt good, because that was the neighborhood I grew up in. I knew the coaches and the school principals. I felt good, being able to give something back. It makes you feel like a role model, when a kid comes up to you and says, "I hear you grew up here. If you can do this, maybe I can too."

I think sports can be a way out of a bad environment. If you're involved in sports, really love the game you're playing, and your biggest goal is to play professionally, then you're not going to stray into drugs and gangs. You have practice after school for three hours, whereas if you get out at 2:15, even if you have homework to do, it's easy to stray.

When I say that sports is one way out to a better way of life, I'm talking about playing. If you're interested in sports administration, I can't recall any African-American in a front-office position who wasn't a famous athlete first. I believe there are plenty of people who are qualified, but don't get a chance, even if they've started at the bottom and worked their way up.

If you're in sports, you realize you have to go to school, maintain your grades and get into college. Education is absolutely the key, whether you're in sports or not.

You have kids in school who can't read or write and instead of saying, "Can you help me?" they just pretend they can so they can get by. But they can't get a job because they can't fill out an application so they hang out with other kids like that and they stray into bad situations. It's sad.

The Globetrotters look for players in college--after I played a year in Argentina I came back and played with a summer pro league at Loyola Marymount, which many people do because it's an opportunity to be seen by the NBA, CBA, European scouts and of course, the Harlem Globetrotters. My father being a Globetrotter had nothing to do with my becoming one--you have to earn your position.

In the summer, I run basketball camps for boys and girls called the Smooth and Special K Hoop Camps, because my nickname is Smooth and Kelvin Hildreth, who's also from Los Angeles, is Special K. They're really to build in education and drug awareness. Last year we went to Jordan High School in Watts, which was my most fulfilling camp.

During the year we go to hospitals and sign autographs, and speak at a lot of elementary schools. I don't like to go to high schools because kids 17, 18 years old have an attitude; they already have their minds made up. But in elementary school there's more of a chance of getting through to them.

Education is so important, but I would also say to kids: Use your parents as role models. And if you can't use them, use someone else you know. A lot of kids use athletes as role models but they don't realize they have someone right there too.

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