"HELLO, I'M Bob Nickerson, with the knickers on. That's a cheap
joke, but it helps people remember my name. I mean, how many
jugglers' names can you remember? I'm the internationally
unknown Jock-ular Juggler."
Nickerson relates this while dribbling four basketballs through,
under and around his legs. "And now for some real tricks," he
says after going five minutes nonstop. "Under the opposite foot,
proving I'm ambifootrous. Under the opposite foot with the
opposite hand, proving I'm redundant. And under the first foot
with the opposite hand, proving I'm confused."
The beefy 52-year-old ex-Marine corporal from Gallitzin, Pa.,
follows his bouncing balls around the country to state fairs,
NBA halftime shows, even the Basketball Hall of Fame in
Springfield, Mass. He's the James Naismith of the multiball
dribble and the juggled layup. The Guinness Book of Records has
recognized Nickerson for dribbling four basketballs
simultaneously for as long as five minutes and for "juggling
three balls while shooting 20 layups through a basket with a net
in one minute while standing under a basket [new category]." He
performs 83 dribbling tricks with three basketballs, and 13 with
The repertoire of this round man isn't limited to roundball: The
array of sporting goods he juggles runs from bowling pins to
bowling balls, pool cues to golf clubs, tennis balls to tennis
rackets to swim fins. "A friend once suggested that I juggle
bowling balls while lying down," he says. "Lying down! What a
concept. That means my juggling is going from the ridiculous to
April 14, 1996
Nickerson juggles words with varying degrees of success. He
keeps three Louisville Sluggers aloft while delivering
excruciating baseball puns: "It is better to have gloved and
lost than never to have gloved at all. Remember, folks: Players
may come, players may go, players may go on strike, but a
diamond is forever."
Nickerson relates this in a lovely rasp honed by years as a
street busker. He sounds as if he had been taught elocution by
W.C. Fields. "Most jugglers take one look at their audience and
throw up," he says. "Throwing up, of course, is a wretched thing
to do. So I'm going to start by throwing down."
Dressed in his signature knickers, orange suspenders, mismatched
socks and a trompe l'oeil T-shirt emblazoned with muscles, he
reaches into his bag of tricks and withdraws the 1990 Guinness.
"I'm on page 342 of the hardback version," he says, "and 506 of
In 1991 Nickerson bounced his way to the Empire State Building
for a summit with other eminent Guinnessians: Kathy Wafler, who
pared an apple into a strip 2,068 inches long; Paul Tavilla, a
grape catcher who caught a black Ribier in his mouth thrown from
a distance of 327'6"; and Ashrita Furman, who held the record
for holding the most Guinness records. "It was a very diverse
group," Nickerson recalls. "None of us were in the same field."
Nickerson relates this under a hail of flying tennis balls that
he keeps revolving like planets orbiting the sun. He's standing
on a wooden plank balanced atop a plastic cylinder. A hula hoop
wobbles around his waist. "What's the hoopla?" he asks. "Without
it, I'm totally hoopless."
He got into juggling 20 years ago by way of kung fu. At the
time, he was living in Guam, where his wife was stationed as a
Navy nurse. "I was the oldest, slowest, heaviest guy in the kung
fu class," says Nickerson. "I was looking for a quickness drill
to help develop my reflexes." Nickerson decided to try juggling.
"At the beginning it didn't seem difficult," he says. "It seemed
Before long he had mastered tennis balls, rings and Indian
clubs. Sixteen months after sending his first bowling ball into
orbit, Nickerson was nursing his first hernia. "You know what
I'm up against--gravity," he says wearily. "Gravity! It's not
just a good idea. It's the law."