Before he was known as “Showtime,” Paul Gaffney was a kid from a rural coal mining town in Kentucky. He was born to an unmarried teenage mom who placed him for adoption. At the age of two, his adoptive mother died and Gaffney was raised alone by his adoptive father. Gaffney would be considered as an “at-risk child” but Gaffney overcame these issues through his love of athletics and basketball. He is the Tennessee Wesleyan University Hall of Fame, where he received a B.S. in Business Management and, through his fifteen years with the Harlem Globetrotters, he is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Now he is the founder of Gaffney Atletic Preparatory Academy (GAPA) in Tennessee which Gaffeny calls, “An innovative school dealing with sports careers including sports medicine, marketing, communications and nutrition serving grades six through twelve.” There is also a post grad program available to students who need it to help with GPA’s as well. GAPA enhances opportunities for students to move up to prestige college, according to Gaffney.
Gaffney says, “There were always people around me who inspired me to be a better athlete,” and this is what he hopes that GAPA will do for his students. Gaffney says GAPA teaches kids to find out what they love. While they may love athletics they might not be the world’s greatest athlete but might be great at cooking which could lead to a career as a sports nutritionist allowing them to be involved in athletics while not being on the field or court.
Students are from all over the world. He recruits students locally as well as Italy, Portugal and other locations.
However, GAPA isn’t his only interest. Gaffney is manager of the Tennessee Conductors of the WABA Basketball League. This women’s league is an opportunity to showcase talent so players may be able to move on to the WNBA. The team is scheduled to begin its season in July.
Gaffney credits his fifteen years with the Harlem Globetrotters in helping him open doors on these ventures. “The Globetrotters helped me develop the needed character for these endeavors,” Gaffney said.
Speaking of his Globetrotter experience Gaffney said, “We played eight days in a seven day week.” The constant travel all over the world helped the team develope a brotherhood that remains to this day. “The court was my office for 15 years and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Gaffney said. He calls the Globetrotter a tight knit family.
Gaffney also said playing with the Globetrotters was probably harder than playing basketball in the NBA due to the number of games involved and the travel which saw them go all around the world but the millions of smiles and memories those games brought to fans are special not only to those fans but for him as well. One of Gaffney’s fondest memories and one that changed his life was in 1996 when he met then South African President Nelson Mandela.
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