NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The legendary Harlem Globetrotters bring their comedic basketball fun to U.S. military bases in Europe and Turkey next month in a rare tour to entertain the troops.

The team will perform at nine bases in Spain, Italy, Germany and Turkey from Dec. 5 through Dec. 14. It is believed to be the first time the world-famous basketball squad has toured overseas bases.

Each show is free to troops and their families.

“They have a very busy schedule,” said Cheryl Anderson, special events and entertainment coordinator for the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division. “But they were very excited about this.”

The Globetrotters will bring the same show that entertains thousands of people worldwide each year.

“As the holiday season approaches, the Globetrotters wanted to take time to remember the men and women who are sacrificing time away from their families,” said Mannie Jackson, team owner and chairman, in a statement announcing the overseas trip.

“The Globetrotters are honored to provide a few hours of entertainment and a break from the stress of protecting our freedom.”

The idea of an overseas tour emerged after Navy Capt. John Orem, commander of U.S. forces in Rota, contacted MWR last year to see if the Globetrotters could make a brief appearance at the naval station during a stop in Spain earlier this year. Although the team couldn’t make it to the base, Anderson said, the Globetrotters agreed to do a special holiday tour of bases throughout Europe.

AT&T is backing the trip, along with sponsoring a halftime, half-court basketball shot contest. Servicemembers and their families can register to try and sink the half-court shot and win $1,000. Also, fans can participate in a halftime free-throw contest to win prepaid long-distance phone cards.

Since their inception 78 years ago, the Globetrotters have entertained more than 121 million fans in 117 countries with their special brand of dunks, jokes and basketball court pranks. In 1998, they played their 20,000th basketball game.

The Globetrotters routinely play more than 200 games a year worldwide. In 2005, they are scheduled to appear in more than 200 cities across the United States and Canada in a four-month span.

During the holiday tour of military bases, HDNet — the high-definition television network co-founded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban — will film a special to air in late December.

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