PEABODY — It was a magical day at South Memorial Elementary School on Monday thanks to Buffy “Mr. Magic” Coleman, a former Harlem Wizard who uses his basketball tricks to teach kids important life lessons.
The Heflin, Louisiana, native was discovered at a Harlem Globetrotters training camp but would go on to play with the Wizards, a team that travels the world to entertain, motivate and fundraise for different causes.
Coleman showed off his tricks with the Wizards from 1997 to 1999. For the last 24 years, he’s put on a one-man motivational basketball show for kids and adults across North America, and will have hosted more than 500 of these programs this year alone.
“The best part for me is just giving these kids hope, especially the ones that don’t have hope and come from troubled backgrounds,” Coleman said. “Being able to do that is what gives me great satisfaction.”
At 5-foot-6 (and a half), Coleman is a trickster Muggsy Bogues of sorts. Instead of slam dunks, spinning basketballs on his finger, arms and head is his specialty.
Tricks like that had kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders laughing on their feet at Coleman’s first performance at the South School Monday afternoon. The school’s gym got extra loud during a group game of catch with about 15 students at center court.
Coleman sent them trick passes they had to catch in order to stay in the game. Second-grader Max Dunne was the last kid standing at the end. For catching all of Coleman’s passes, he got a green shirt with the logo of Coleman’s sponsor on it: Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning.
Making kids laugh wasn’t the only point of the program. Coleman also spoke about the importance of self-confidence and working hard on the court, in the classroom and in life.
“This is the land of the free, and you have the opportunity to become very, very successful,” he told students. “But you have to work hard. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you can do it.”
It’s lessons like these that are important for kids to hear, said Shannon Kane, an adjustment counselor at the school.
“Social emotional (skills) are my life. I see it every day, not just with the kids I work with, but across the building and even with adults,” Kane said. “Especially around the holidays, it can be very difficult. You’ll see some behavior starting to come out. So it’s really great to have (Coleman’s) positive influence.”
Kane brought Coleman to Peabody after seeing him entertain kids at the last school she worked at. He also put on a show for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at South later in the afternoon and stopped by West Elementary School that morning. He performed again at the Carroll and McCarthy elementary schools on Tuesday.
“When I know that I made a difference, and they come up to me afterwards, and it seems that this is something that could stick with them for the rest of their life, seeing that in their face is my favorite part,” Coleman said.