Nov. 30, 2000 -- The world’s most famous globetrotter just became a Globetrotter — a Harlem Globetrotter.
Pope John Paul II was made an honorary member of the famed basketball team, known as much for its hoop trickery as its extensive travels. To mark the occasion, John Paul was given a Globetrotters jersey signed by his new teammates, and numbered 75 to mark the squad’s 75th anniversary.
The Globetrotters said in a statement that the “prestigious title recognizes an individual of extraordinary character and achievement who has made an everlasting mark on the world.”
So prestigious, in fact, that the pope is only the seventh individual to hold it. John Paul also got an autographed ball in the deal.
The pontiff has visited some 122 countries in his 22-year papacy, while the team has performed in 115 countries in its existence.
“We are catching up to him,” team spokesman Brett Meister said.
“We bring a message of hope to kids around the world,” said team owner-chairman Mannie Jackson, a former Globetrotter, after the Wednesday meeting.
Champions of Human Rights
“With all the troubles that we see around the world, it gets more and more challenging to communicate with young people today,” said Jackson. “Similar to the Pope, the Globetrotters have touched tens of millions of people around the world as moral leaders and champions of human rights.”
In addition to Jackson, team members Curley Johnson, Lou Dunbar, Elmer Martin, Wun Versher, and Alex Sanders attended the audience, which took place following the Pope’s weekly General Audience, before a crowd of 50,000 on in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
The Globetrotters have met with three other popes — Pius XII in 1951 and 1952, John XXIII in 1959 and 1963 and Paul VI in 1968..”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.