Harlem Globetrotters player Meadowlark Lemon died Sunday in Arizona. He was 83.
Popularly known as the “clown prince” of basketball, he played for the team for 24 years. “He was an incredible entertainer and brought happiness and lifelong memories to millions around the world,” Globetrotters chief executive Kurt Schneider said. “We have lost a great ambassador of the game.”
Playing in more than 100 countries, Lemon was inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame. During his induction into the basketball hall in 2003, he said that his destiny “was to make people happy.”
Born in 1932, originally named Meadow George Lemon III, he grew up in North Carolina and joined the Globetrotters in 1954.
“Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I’ve ever seen,” former Globetrotter Wilt Chamberlain said prior to his death in 1999, as reported by NBA.com. “People would say it would be Dr. J or even (Michael) Jordan. For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”
He praised the Globetrotters for never being influenced by money. “We were having fun; we enjoyed what we did and I find that the young kids today, you know, they either go to college to learn to play basketball so they can make a lot of money. This wasn’t with us,” he said during an interview in 2001. “We enjoyed what we did. I just wanted to be out there and entertain.” After departing from the Globetrotters in 1979, Lemon started his own basketball teams.
In 1986, Lemon became an ordained minister. He visited the country and met with children at youth prisons. “I feel if I can touch a kid in youth prison, he won’t go to the adult prison,” Lemon had said.