NBA scouts scouring the globe for international talent must be cursing themselves this morning, after being beaten to the punch for the services of the hottest Argentine to rock Italy since Manu Ginobili in the early 2000s.
The organization that swooped in? The Harlem Globetrotters. The talent in question? The ball-handlin' Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis:
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Pope Francis met with members of the Globetrotters on Wednesday during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. The 'Trotters visited Vatican City as part of a promotional push for their upcoming 90th anniversary tour, marking the eighth time the club has had an audience with a Pope, and they took full advantage, with Globetrotter "Flight Time" Lang getting "a red, white, and blue ball spinning on his own finger, then took the pope's right index finger and let a smiling Francis try it himself," according to The Associated Press.
The team also named Pope Francis an "honorary Globetrotter," a title bestowed upon "an individual of extraordinary character and achievement who has made an everlasting mark on the world." He's just the ninth person ever to receive the weirdly prestigious distinction, joining a pretty broad array of individuals — former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, comedian Bob Hope, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, comedian Whoopi Goldberg, South African activist and president Nelson Mandela, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Pope John Paul II and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson — who would, it's safe to say, make for a fascinating nine-man rotation in a contest against the Washington Generals.
In addition to the ball-spinning and honorary-status-winning, Pope Francis added a new personalized basketball jersey to his collection thanks to the Globetrotters:
— Harlem Globetrotters (@Globies) May 6, 2015
I know what you're thinking — after getting a No. 1 jersey from the Boston Celtics, why did the Pope get a No. 90 jersey from the Globetrotters? My theory: the two numbers add up to 91, and the Pontiff's offering a subtle tip of his giant cap to the last hoops ambassador to make a visit to Vatican City. We can only wonder whether dyed hair and piercings will follow.
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