Basketballs to get serious air time

The Harlem Globetrotters soon will have a presence way above the globe.

Space shuttle Atlantis will carry a pair of basketballs when it rockets away on a repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Liftoff is scheduled for this afternoon.

One of the balls belongs to the Globetrotters. It was deflated to save room inside the shuttle, which is jammed with spacewalking gear and new telescope parts.

The other is a century-old ball on loan from the University of Chicago that was once handled by the astronomer whom the Hubble Telescope is named after. Astronaut John Grunsfeld, an alumnus who will serve as the chief telescope repairman, is taking it up.

Edwin Hubble tossed the ball around in a 1909 victory against Indiana University. The 6-foot-2-inch Hubble was a star forward on the University of Chicago’s Big Ten champion teams of 1907-08 and 1908-09.

Because the old ball did not have an air valve, Grunsfeld cut it open and discovered it was filled with fiber packing material. The stuffing was removed so the ball would take up as little room as possible aboard space shuttle Atlantis.

The Globetrotters, coincidentally, have ties to Chicago. That’s where they were founded in 1926.

After traveling to 120 countries and six continents, the Globetrotters wanted to expand into space.

“It is only fitting that the team that has seen more of the world than any other in history would have a presence beyond the stratosphere,” Globetrotters chief executive officer Kurt Schneider said in a news release.

After Atlantis returns to Earth, the Globetrotters will put their red, white and blue space ball on display at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The Hubble ball will go back to the University of Chicago.

PULLING DOUBLE DUTY — Natalie Gulbis had a busy Sunday.

The Lake Las Vegas-based LPGA Tour star went from the final round of the Michelob Ultra Open at the Kingsmill resort in Williamsburg, Va., to Donald Trump‘s “boardroom” on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Shortly after golf’s glamour girl tied for seventh, seven strokes behind Michelob Ultra Open winner Cristie Kerr, she boarded a private jet sent by NBC bound for New York, where she was to take part in the two-hour finale of the TV reality series that night.

Gulbis said she was looking forward to being reunited with all the friends she made on the show. And although she was “fired” by Trump in the April 19 episode, she didn’t return to the boardroom poor — not after pocketing just under $59,000 from her golf play earlier in the day.

TWITTER FIT — Shaquille O’Neal has a Twitter account, and apparently an interest in Los Angeles sports. After he heard the big news in baseball on Thursday, O’Neal posted the following tweet: “Dam manny ramirez, come on man Agggggggggh, agggggggh, agggggh.”


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