It starts simply, with a ball placed on the floor beneath him. Then Bull Bullard picks said ball up with his feet, grabs the hoop above him, and swings his 6-foot-4 frame to and fro several times before finally launching the ball up and over the hoop, jumping at the last second to slam it in with his hand.
The “swinging dunk” is one of the 29-year-old Detroit native’s signature moves, but this Harlem Globetrotter has so much more to offer than astounding physical feats on the court.
“What’s the ‘A’ stand for?” he yelled to a room of students at the McNichols Plaza Elementary School in Scranton on March 13. Bullard was present for “The ABCs of Bullying Prevention” program, which was designed by the Globetrotters in coordination with the National Campaign to Stop Violence that focuses on “Action, Bravery, and Compassion,” all methods to help reduce bullying and violence among youths.
“It needs to be talked about,” the 2008 Globetrotters draftee said after an hour spent educating and entertaining the kids. “It’s a sensitive topic, and it needs to be addressed.”
Bullard is no stranger to adversity, growing up in the foster care system and being on his own a lot, having to avoid the allure of drugs, crime, and gang activity that was ever-present in his neighborhood. Though he initially didn’t like basketball, he told the kids that morning, he eventually fell in love with the game and used it as an outlet for the anger and frustration he sometimes felt.
The first time he ever dunked was at age 13, a skill that would take him to the College Slam Dunk Championship in 2008, where he was one of only two perfect scores for the event.
“I was outside playing basketball, it was a fast break, a guy was chasing me, and I just jumped,” Bullard said of his initial dunk.
Jumping into things is exactly what Bullard does; the athlete took to the “American Ninja Warrior” course in Las Vegas in 2012 and was invited to the New York Jets’ rookie camp in 2008, despite the fact that he never played football. He’s appeared on TV shows like “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” and “Man v. Food Nation.”
And yet, despite all these high-profile appearances, the Globetrotters’ guard remains humble, recognizing the importance that goes along with his red, white, and blue uniform.
“It means everything,” he said when asked what being a member of the Globetrotters means to him. “We are great role models, ambassadors of goodwill, and we do a lot of great things for the community. I love it.”
The Globetrotters will appear at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on March 21. Last year, the team became the first organization in sports and entertainment to let fans vote on the rules by which the team would play. This year’s ballot, which can be accessed at harlemglobetrotters.com/rule, includes several crazy rules, such as “Hot Hand Jersey,’ where both teams will have a jersey that can be passed among each other and the person wearing it will receive double points; “Make or Miss,” where the quarter beings with two players for each team and additional players are only allowed on the court when a teammate scores and a missed shot kicks the player off the court; and “Trick Shot Challenge,” where the coach of each team can challenge the other team to make a trick shot, resulting in five points for a successful one and five points to the other team for a failed one.