“What’s it like stepping onto the court? It’s just fireworks.”
Harlem Globetrotter Jahmani “Hot Shot” Swanson, who also goes by the name Mani Love, has one of the basketball team’s most unique distinctions: At just 4-foot-5, he’s the shortest player in the history of the organization.
Called the “Michael Jordan of dwarf basketball,” Mani has loved the sport since he was a baby.
“That was the first thing I fell in love with,” Mani told InsideEdition.com
But adoring a sport known for its towering players wasn’t always easy. Thankfully, Mani had the support of his biggest fan: His mom, Sabrina.
Sabrina, who is also a little person, gave birth to Mani when she was just 17. A single mom, Sabrina raised Mani and his younger brother, Justin, in Harlem, New York, with the help of her family.
Sometimes, though, it felt like she had three children as Mani never went anywhere without his beloved basketball.
“Nobody wanted him to come to the house, because they knew if I'm coming over with my son he's coming with his ball,” Sabrina told InsideEdition.com.
Mani would bounce the ball all day and night in their tiny apartment, driving their neighbors insane, Sabrina said. Once she even caught him sleeping with it next to him.
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Sabrina knew it was more than an obsession. Her son was a breakout star on the courts of Harlem, and later, all over New York City, easily beating kids who were twice his height.
So, she dedicated her free time to shuttling Mani around so he could pursue his dream. It was exhausting, she admitted, but it paid off.
“People used to always tell my son, ‘Oh, you ain't gonna make the NBA.’ He made the Harlem Globetrotters; that's even a bigger stage than the NBA!” Sabrina said.
“Some people go to schools and get degrees and work so hard to inspire people, to educate people; he's just doing that with something that he loves. Can you imagine? Just from playing ball as a kid. Excuse me. It's a beautiful feeling,” she continued.
“[He] never had to go to no prison, no jail, that's amazing feeling in this kind of environment, this kind of hood, to know that he made it.”
In 2016, Mani made his hometown debut with the Harlem Globetrotters inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
“I don’t feel like it’s a job, I feel like I am a superhero,” he said.
But even as a Globetrotter, Mani said people still doubt him.
“I go through it every day,” he said. “I'm overcoming it to this day.”
When he’s feeling low, he remembers what his mom told him.
“I used to [say], ‘Make sure you love yourself. Make sure you do your best. Make sure when you look in the mirror you are comfortable, don't worry about what nobody else say. ‘Cause they don't matter,’” said Sabrina.
“... Show them different, you have to prove yourself over and over and over, and don't ever get tired ‘cause that's just the way the world works,” she added.
“Words, they're just words, and once you stand up, you don't let someone mentally punk you out, or mentally abuse you, and then you become stronger,” Mani echoed.
It’s his appreciation for his mother, and her unwavering support of him, that continues to drive him, he said.
“That's my best friend. It was me and my brother, and my mother was that parent that made it happen. She was the one at times who took me to the basketball camps. My first tournament was because of my mom," he said. "Take me to the park, it was my mom. In the crowd, my mom. She's the coach…. She's the trainer. That's the one that's there. That's the love.”
Sabrina’s flattered by her son’s devotion.
“I hear him talk; it's always, ‘Mom, mom, mom.’ That just reminds me that I did my job," she said. "When I hear him talk about me, it's the best feeling in the world.
“Can't trade that for nothing. No house, no cars, no money, no nothing, that's what keeps me happy and loved and know that I did that part of my life right."
As Mani hits the road with the Globetrotters this fall, his excitement can hardly be contained. While basketball is his outlet to showcase his talents, he views the court as a platform to spread a message of love.
“I'm here to save the world,” he said. “I think people are touched more because they see how I'm carrying myself. They see how it's no excuses. I just get up every day and do what I love, and I love what I do.”