MANATEE — Frank “Shake N Bake” Streety is an original.
If you don’t believe it, he’ll tell you.
If you don’t believe him, just read the back of his white sweat suit. It proclaims him an “Original Harlem Globetrotter.”
“I go waaaaay back,” Streety told a group of about 50 residents, family and staff members who turned out for an appearance Thursday at Heritage Park nursing facility.
Streety, a New York streetball legend who played at Murray State before embarking on a 20-year career with the clown princes of basketball, also visited Riviera Palms and Surrey Place on Thursday. His tour of local nursing facilities was organized by NurseOnCall Home Health Care and funded by Medical Department Store.
Now in his “late 60s,” Streety didn’t show off his best tricks, opting instead to teach four Heritage Park staff members how to perform the “magic circle,” while leading the crowd in a rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the Globetrotters’ signature song.
Though he has done countless appearances for seniors and kids since retiring from the Globetrotters in 1989, Streety arrived Thursday with a new cause to share. He is the chief executive officer of 360 ESAH Foundation, a new nonprofit group that aims to impact the lives of children through programs that stress education, sports, the arts and health care.
“I just didn’t like what was going on with our youth and kids today, the message they were getting,” Streety said. “Instead of just being a talker, I decided to try to see what I could do about it. ... A lot of people are going to follow me.”
Streety lives in Orlando, and that’s where the foundation is based. But organizers hope to partner with groups that work with kids in Manatee and other areas.
“Eventually, this is going to be a worldwide movement,” said Connie Fusella, the foundation’s vice president and a home health care coordinator for NurseOnCall. “If someone approaches us and there is a need, then, yeah, definitely we’ll get it staffed.”
Streety signed autographs and took pictures with every audience member at Thursday’s event. He showed the seniors pictures of him cavorting with celebrities like Muhammad Ali, Soupy Sales and a young Melissa Gilbert, of “Little House on the Prairie” fame.
“I had hair then,” he said, showing one senior a picture of himself in a Globetrotters uniform sporting an afro. “I thought I had it going on.”
But Streety made sure his audience knew one thing beyond the importance of his new foundation: The no-look passes and acrobatic ball-handling rampant in today’s NBA are direct products of the no-rules brand of basketball Streety and his Globetrotter cohorts like “Curly” Neal and “Meadowlark” Lemon popularized in the 1960s and 1970s.
“We are the pioneers of basketball. ... We are the ones to originate all of that,” Streety said.