What’s harder than beating the Harlem Globetrotters? Becoming an honorary Harlem Globetrotter. In the organization’s 86-year history, only eight nonplayers have been named to the team, and only one—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—has documented basketball skills. Considering how stingy the franchise is with these honors, though, it’s difficult to imagine they’d recruit anyone without knowing they could get on the court at a moment’s notice. The team, in town to beat up on five local yokels, must’ve known something the rest of us didn’t…until now.
Here, we present the secret history of the Globetrotters’ honorary starting five.
Whoopi Goldberg (Point guard)
NICKNAME: The Big Whoop.
SIGNATURE MOVE: The Color Purple Nurple, a defensive technique outlawed the same year as hand-checking, sack-tapping and atomic wedging.
NOTABLE STAT: Led the Globetrotters in Sass and Telling It Like It Is for four straight seasons.
FUN FACT: Also served as head coach of the New York Knicks for one highlarious season until being forced into retirement due to a bout of acute Patrick Swayze Possession.
Pope John Paul II (Shooting guard)
NICKNAME: His Divine Sweetness, aka the Pontiff of the Parquet, aka Johnny Big Hat.
SIGNATURE MOVE: The Holy Trinity, an off-balance three-point shot so miraculous it’d make team mascot Globie cry tears of blood.
NOTABLE STAT: Averaged 24 points, 10 absolutions, six Hail Marys and four de-pantsings for his career.
FUN FACT: After his hat registered 23 blocks per game in a single season, the Globetrotters banned all comically oversize headwear from being worn on the court, prematurely ending the career of Archibald “Stovepipe” Jackson.
Bob Hope (Small forward)
NICKNAME: Admiral Laughenstein.
SIGNATURE MOVE: Undercutting an opposing player in midair, followed by a rimshot from a sideline drummer.
NOTABLE STAT: Holds the Globetrotters’ all-time record for number of referees bludgeoned to death by a golf club.
FUN FACT: Took more charges than his credit card after his wife found out he hadn’t stop seeing that trollop Barbara Payton. Heyooooooo!
Henry Kissinger (Power forward)
SIGNATURE MOVE: The Carpet Bomb, a thunderous two-handed dunk in which he would tear down the hoop, shatter the backboard and maim innocent women and children sitting courtside, only to realize the ball had bounced off the rim, thus accomplishing nothing.
NOTABLE STAT: Arranged the assassinations of eight Washington Generals, second most in Globetrotters history, behind Meadowlark Lemon.
FUN FACT: Once had a game of H-O-R-S-E against the president of Uruguay overthrown by a military junta.
Nelson Mandela (Center)
NICKNAME: World B. Morgan Freeman.
SIGNATURE MOVE: The Mandela Shake, a series of fakes, spins and jab-steps bewildering enough to end apartheid, alleviate poverty, raise AIDS awareness and score an easy layup.
NOTABLE STAT: The 6-foot-4 Mandela leads the Globetrotters in ejections, flagrant fouls and biting.
FUN FACT: Known for storming into bars after games and proclaiming, “Who wants to sex Mandela?!”
SEE IT: The Harlem Globetrotters will play at the Rose Garden Arena, 1 Center Court, on Saturday, Feb. 23. 2 and 7 pm. $15-$121.