Harlem Globetrotter Uses Sign Language to Chat With Students

On the basketball court, Harlem Globetrotter Chris “Animal” Hyche lets his hands do the talking.  

Off the court, well… same thing. That’s because Hyche is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), a language he’s known all his life, as he is the son of two deaf parents – known in the deaf community as CODA (Child of Deaf Adult).  

While passing through Pittsburgh in preparation for the Globetrotters’ Pushing The Limits World Tour visit there on Dec. 26, Animal Hyche paid a special visit to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. He was there as part of the Globetrotters’ “T.E.A.M. up at School” program to deliver an anti-bullying message – a message that he could deliver straight to the students without needing an interpreter. Take a look at Hyche’s inspiring visit to this school:

It wouldn’t be a Globetrotters visit without some basketball; Hyche led some of the students in the famous Magic Circle, a Globetrotters staple where each player showcases their best ball-handling tricks. With a little help from Hyche, the students were passing the ball off their heads, around their backs, and under their legs. A student also helped Hyche with a perfect alley-oop, which set the crowd into a roar (I don’t think high school games usually feature a lot of dunking). 

And in case you were wondering where Animal got his nickname: “They say the way I dunk is ferocious… they say it’s like an animal out there” says Hyche.

“Animal” Hyche and the students at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf sign “I love you” to the camera – photo: Sarah Bartlebaugh

When the students were filing out of the auditorium, I witnessed the truest sense of why this visit was special to them: packs of kids flocked around him, asking him questions and telling him stories about themselves. All of this, obviously, was done completely in ASL. No teachers. No interpreters. All smiles. Whatever barriers might typically exist between these students and a celebrity were completely shattered and it was as if the students were just goofing around with an old (six foot five) friend.

“For someone who they look up to to come in and be able to actually communicate with them, I know it made their day. It made mine too.” – Chris “Animal” Hyche

To learn more about the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and how you can help out, click here

To find out when you can see Animal and the rest of the Globetrotters near you, check out their Pushing the Limits World Tour schedule here

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