Jonte “Too Tall” Hall is a long way from the commodes he used to scrub before he became a professional basketball player with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Even then he stayed focused. The five-foot-two athlete always knew he would be more than a custodian from Baltimore.
Now, 30 years after his childhood began in downtown Baltimore’s McCulloh Homes projects, the star has returned to celebrate not only his own success, but the recent naming of Dec. 29 as “Harlem Globetrotters Day” in his hometown.
“It’s a blessing,” Hall told the AFRO, speaking about how it feels to return to Baltimore. “I was told I would never be a professional basketball player but this has been a dream come true.”
Hall is the shortest man to ever don the red, white, and blue uniform, complete with its’ signature striped red and white shorts. He joined the Globetrotters in 2010 after a short stint with rival team, The Generals, and says he plans to stay as long as possible.
Muggy Bogues, Earl Boykins, and Too Tall’s uncle, Ernest Hall, who also had a career in professional basketball overseas, all served as icons and role models for the young athlete.
“He was the type of child that always had that dream and never gave up on it. People would say ‘you’re too short,’ or ‘you’re getting to old’ but he always went to the camps and continued trying out for different teams,” said Melvina N. Christian, mother of the basketball prodigy.
“I brought him a basketball at the age of four. He would sleep with it and take it everywhere we’d go,” she said.
Hall first began playing basketball on a team at age 6. The jokes and episodes of ridicule soon followed.
“Why are you so short? Why are you so tiny?,” Hall remembers other children asking, verbal bullying he said did nothing to deter him.
“All my life I had to work on my jump shots. I would stay in the gym extra hours to perfect the tougher shots so I could be successful.”
Hall said his belief in persistence is a main message for youth and others striving for a dream.
“You can do anything you put your mind to but it starts at home and in the classroom. If you respect your parents and your teachers, the sky is the limit, but you have to be mentally focused and mentally ready for all the challenges.”
Begun in 1926 with only five players, according to a timeline of events on the official website, the team has become most famous for the hundreds of tricks and turns displayed in each exhibition game, or match with no major focus on winning.
The 30-member team has become known for infusing a heightened level of artistry when it comes to ball handling, comedy and the excitement of the game itself.
Aside from wowing fans on the court, the Harlem Globetrotters also engage in a wealth of community activities that include special visits and programming for schools and children’s hospitals. The team has also taken a special interest in putting an end to bullying.
The team will donate 100 free tickets to the Dec. 29 game, which will be a double-header at the 1st Mariner Arena in downtown Baltimore.