Kenny "Blenda" Rodriguez earned his Harlem Globetrotter name for a very good reason.
"I got the name because I make smoothies out of my defenders," he said with a playful smirk.
Rodriguez was in the Tri-Cities this week promoting the upcoming Harlem Globetrotter exhibition game happening Feb. 23 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
At 5-foot-8, he's one of the shorter members on the team, but Rodriguez said size is not always what counts.
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"I'm tall at heart," he said. "I love this game, and that's why I'm good at it."
The 34-year-old athlete was born and bred in New York City and has loved basketball since his older brother introduced him to the sport as kid. But he almost gave it up for good in high school when the basketball coach cut him from the team because he wasn't tall enough.
"It devastated me to be cut from the team," he said. "I was angry and totally quit playing the game for four years because of that. Instead, I went to college and concentrated on learning martial arts."
But basketball is in his blood, and he couldn't avoid it forever.
He stumbled across an old VCR tape on the Globetrotters and started practicing all their moves until he had them all down pat.
He then got a job with the Harlem Wizards basketball group performing at exhibitions. Then four years ago, the Harlem Globetrotters invited him to audition and the rest is history, he said.
Though Rodriguez won't be playing in the Tri-City event, he said some of the more well-known players who will be here include Nate "Big Easy" Lofton, Fatima "TNT" Maddox, Paul "Tiny" Sturgess, and Jonte "Too Tall" Hall.
Lofton's also known for his stint on the TV series The Amazing Race, and Sturgess is recognized as the world's tallest basketball player at 7-foot-8. Hall is the shortest Globetrotter at 5-foot-2, Rodriguez said.
As for Maddox, she earned her name for being so explosive on the court, Rodriguez said.
Showtime at the Toyota Center is 7 p.m. Feb. 23. Tickets start at $15 and are available at the box office.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org