The Harlem Rockets were formed in August 1993 by Manchester and East Hartford, Connecticut Sports Hall of Fame inductee Brig. General (Ret.) George Mitchell. For many years Mitchell had been a key figure for the storied Harlem Magicians, working for ex-Globe Trotter Marques Haynes as General Manager.
Two ex-Magicians joined General Mitchell as he made his move for independence. These were none other than Captain “Magic” Valentino Willis and Connecticut Scholastic scoring record holder Tracy Liss. The three held tryouts in Boston, Providence and Hartford to select the players who would fill the Harlem Rockets inaugural roster.
The Harlem Rockets first year was an unconditional success with 135 games played in 18 states. This unusually high number of games for a new team continued the next three years as Willis led the Rockets to an undefeated record.
Valentino’s contract was up in the spring of 1996, and General Mitchell, who had been approached by a talented comedian from another team, promptly placed him under contract. Sayeed “Rainbow” Muntaqim joined the Harlem Rockets in the fall of 1996. “Jammin” Jay Griffin also joined the Rockets at this time.
For the next few years the Harlem Rockets average 150 games per year and remained undefeated. During this period the Rockets successfully employed new technologies by outfitting the comedians with wireless microphones and complemented the show with music from a state-of-the-art sound system. In 2002 the Harlem Rockets christened their new team bus, customized for extra legroom for the players and complete with artwork on the exterior.
2003 marked another new era for the Harlem Rockets. The comedy reins were handed over to two young and spectacular new talents. In September of that year Kevin “Showboat” Jackson and Dwayne “Swoop” Simpson were baptized as the head and assistant comedians, respectively. In taking this calculated risk, General Mitchell and the Harlem Rockets fans soon realized that these two young basketball comedians were more than up to the task.
With the Harlem Rockets in an excellent position both in terms of personnel and schedule, General Mitchell decided that after five decades in comedy basketball it was time to pass the torch. In June of 2004, Brian DuLac secured ownership of the Harlem Rockets, retaining General Mitchell as President.
Over the next few years two Harlem Rockets would be signed by the famed Harlem Globetrotters; Dwayne “Swoop” Simpson and Kenny “Krazy Hands” Rodriguez. Nevertheless, the Rockets maintained a fabulous show and following, playing over 150 games each year with a mix of newcomers and veterans Ricky “7 Footer” Lopes (Duquesne), Greg “The Finisher” Wells and headliner comedian Kevin “Showboat” Jackson.
The 2007/2008 Campaign
Newcomers to the 2007/08 Harlem Rockets include Bahaman National Team player and aspiring comedian Chris “Chicken” Turnquest, Oklahoma product Avery “Slick” Stevenson and high flying Connecticut native Ron “The Rocket” Christy.
As of this writing, the Harlem Rockets are still undefeated with over 2400 wins in the past 14 years. There will come a day when the Rockets will finally lose, but win or lose:
The Harlem Rockets will put on a great basketball show complete with skills, comedy, entertainment and incredible showmanship.
The Rockets play local competition and are recognized as outstanding family entertainment. They incorporate the audience, especially children, into the show and are always available to meet the fans and give autographs at halftime and after the game.
In addition to the games, the players visit schools during the day to deliver to the students a positive message about education, goal-setting and avoiding the
hazards of drugs and alcohol. Of course, no school visit is without its share of comedy and basketball skills demonstrations.
The Harlem Rockets look forward to the 2007/08 season with great anticipation. Sporting new uniforms and two spectacularly decorated vans, the Rockets are ready to blast into your town for a great night of family entertainment. We guarantee an outstanding show and a memorable night for your community.