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Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack dunks during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack dunks during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack dunks during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack dunks during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)
Harlem Globetrotters mascot Globie interacts with a fan during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotters mascot Globie interacts with a fan during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack lifts a baby in the crowd as the "Lion King" theme song plays during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack lifts a baby in the crowd as the "Lion King" theme song plays during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack sits inside a basketball hoop during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotter Bulldog Mack sits inside a basketball hoop during a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)
Harlem Globetrotter Jet Rivers signs autographs for fans after a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotter Jet Rivers signs autographs for fans after a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)
Harlem Globetrotter TNT Lister signs autographs for fans following a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019.
Harlem Globetrotter TNT Lister signs autographs for fans following a game at the Dragon Fitness Center, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Basketball icons the Harlem Globetrotters brought early holiday cheer to troops and their families at Aviano this week as they played their longtime nemeses, the Washington Generals, signed autographs and posed for pictures at the base’s Dragon Fitness Center.

Six-foot-one guard Jet Rivers said playing for service members and their families was “my absolute favorite moment as a Globetrotter.”

“I have been to Afghanistan on a tour to visit the troops there,” he said. “It was an amazing experience because not all of us get to experience what the military service members go through day-to-day.”

Kristy Earls, superintendent of the 31st Medical Group, and her two sons Cole, 7, and Jackson, 13, helped greet the Globetrotters with thunderous applause. “I love how they interact with the crowd,” Earls said.

Guard Darnell “Speedy” Artis, who earned his nickname for his rapid style of play and dexterity on the court, soaked up the excitement from the audience and the children’s smiles.

“It reminds me of when I was a little boy going to Globetrotter events with my father,” he said.

Being a Globetrotter has allowed Artis to realize two of his childhood dreams, the 5-7 player said. “One was to play basketball professionally, and the other was to be able to change the world,” he said. “I feel that by being a Globetrotter, I get to do both.”

The Globetrotters have entertained more than 148 million fans in 123 countries and territories worldwide since they were founded in 1926 and are credited with popularizing the slam dunk, the fast break and the figure-eight weave.

llamas.norman@stripes.com Twitter: @normanllamas

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