Harlem Globetrotter showman Kevin “Special K” Daley’s accomplishments represent a unique mix of impressive feats: playing on a cricket field in Jamaica, throwing passes to NFL stars like Greg Jennings and Jay Cutler, playing in a darkened gym in a glow-in-the-dark uniform, and appearing on hit TV shows such as Hell’s Kitchen, The Bachelorette, and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? He also holds the official Guinness World Record for the longest recorded hook shot ever made at 46′ 6″.
Although his athletic prowess and flair for entertaining have brought him celebrity, one of Special K’s most meaningful accomplishments remains the fulfillment of a promise he made to himself and his father by completing his college degree.
Despite a rigorous schedule that saw him play 500 games in 25 countries and covering more than 50,000 miles in a two-year stretch, Daley—who attended APU from 1998–2000—earned his degree in sociology in spring 2010 through an online university. “I couldn’t preach education to my own daughter if I had the opportunity and didn’t do it,” he said.
Often the ringleader in locker room frivolity, Special K found it challenging to pull himself out of the mix to focus on his studies. “I had to concentrate and block it out,” he said. Just before a game in Chile, for example, music blasted in the small locker room while teammates joked around, and Daley had only 15 minutes to complete an exam. He not only earned a 90 percent on that test, but he also eventually graduated with a 3.6 grade-point average and Deans’ List distinction.
He learned that dedication from his father, who raised three sons alone (Special K’s mother died when he was 3 years old) and moved the family from Panama to the U.S. in 1989 to give them better opportunities. Following his basketball career, Daley plans to pursue a career in motivational speaking, life coaching, and writing. “I don’t want people to ever say that I was just an athlete,” said Daley, who is writing his first book. Entitled I Never Stopped Smiling, it focuses on overcoming challenges and inspiring others—the story of his life. He has also created a website—www.3dquest.net—promoting what he calls the three Ds of life: dedication, desire, and discipline.
Find out more about Special K and his life as a Harlem Globetrotter by visiting www.harlemglobetrotters.com.
Photo by Sean Blair/Harlem Globetrotters