BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On Tuesday night at Gov. Livingston High School, the Harlem Wizards dazzled their sold out audience with "sky-high slams, hilarious humor, dynamic energy, fan participation, world class tricks and basketball wizardry" to benefit the Berkeley Heights Ed Foundation. The crowd cheered and laughed as the Wizards displayed their silly antics and impersonations.
After the Berkeley Heights Education Foundation's annual teacher basketball game was canceled due to ongoing contract negotiations, event co-chairs Kelly Murphy and Jess Schmidt and fellow trustees reinvented the event, and the Harlem Wizards and community came through big time.
When the "BH Hoopsters” players were announced -- the stage was set for a slam dunk success for the six schools the Berkeley Heights Ed Foundation supports.
First players to be announced were the three elementary school principals, who are no strangers to the big game arena -- then they announced Ziggy, everyone's favorite mailman; next, CMS Coach Kopal, who led the Tigers to a winning season; then "The Holy Hoopster" Father Andy, Pastor of Church of the Little Flower; and the senior Highlander girls and boys varsity basketball team players were announced -- to name a few on the roster.
Using humor to generate funds for the local schools, more than 900 people were in attendance. On top of the money raised through ticket sales, the Berkeley Heights Ed Foundation also sold snacks, souvenirs, and raffle tickets.
The Wizards put on an interactive show, signing autographs, taking the shoes off of audience members, taking “selfies” with fans, and dancing. Members of the BHVRS were also on deck and played along with their act. At one point, there was an impromptu wedding proposal and walk down the aisle by a Wizards' player and "BH Hoopster" Patty Hammer, who "hammed" it up to perfection.
The event began with players running through smoke as they entered the gym to loud applause. With only one player under 6’4, the Wizards towered over the BH Hoopsters.
The game remained close throughout, but we know the fans came for the entertainment and wow factor of the sky-high slams.
The Harlem Wizards are a show basketball team founded in 1962 by New York Sports promoter Howie Davis. Howie Davis wanted to put a different spin on show basketball, using it as a fundraising tool for schools and nonprofits across the country. In the last year alone, the Wizards have helped organizations raise more than $2 million.
The game was sponsored by: Embassy Suites by Hilton Berkeley Heights, Smith Chiropractic Foundation and Investors Foundation. Also, newly opened Excel Orthopedic Rehabilitation was on hand to stretch the athletes.
Photo credits: Mike Kerr and Bobbie Peer
Related Article: Photo Gallery by John Haddad