Fan favorite of the Harlem Globetrotters, Meadowlark Lemon, passed away at the age of 83, but the cause of death has not been revealed. Meadowlark Lemon knew how to play basketball and bring laughter to millions while doing it. According to the New York Times, Dec. 28, 2015, he was called the “Clown Prince of Basketball” playing in over, 16,000 games and he brought smiles and joy to audiences throughout the world. When the name Harlem Globetrotters was said, everyone thought immediately of Meadowlark Lemon.
Meadowlark Lemon’s wife, Dr. Cynthia Lemon, confirmed that he passed away at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meadowlark was born in the area known as Jim Crow South and he was raised by his aunt and uncle when his parents went their separate ways. Meadowlark wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life until he was 11-years-old. At that time, he saw a newsreel featuring the Harlem Globetrotters and it captured his attention. Meadowlark Lemon wrote in his book, “The players in the newsreel were unlike any I had ever seen. . . . They laughed, danced, and did ball tricks as they stood in a ‘Magic Circle’ and passed the ball to a jazzy tune called ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ How they could play!” He noticed something else about this team. “There was one other thing that was different about them, though. They were all black men. The same color as me.”
When Meadowlark Lemon was a small North Carolina boy, he had a dream of becoming a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. After Meadowlark left the Army, he That dream was realized when at the age of 22 in 1954, Meadowlark was out of the Army, he joined the famed team shortly after team member, and Reece Tatum retired.
Meadowlark was a skilled basketball player, but his dream included the chance to entertain people, not just play basketball. “My destiny was to make people happy,” Lemon said in 2003 when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Only five Globetrotters had their numbers retired and Meadowlark Lemon was one of them.
The Harlem Globetrotters began in the 1920s in Chicago and Meadowlark joined in 1954 and played until 1979. However, basketball wasn’t his only talent, as he appeared on television shows and specials during that time. He appeared in the movie “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” and he was on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Gilligan’s Island”. and “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine.” He even had a cartoon that he voiced as himself in “The Harlem Globetrotters,” and he did an episode in the cartoon, “Scooby Doo.”
This is an excerpt from a release by Hall of Fame president John L. Doleva, Hall of Fame president released a statement on Lemon’s passing in which he said, “Meadowlark used the game of basketball to bring happiness, peace and laughter to people from a variety of cultures across the globe. He proved that basketball truly has no boundaries and the language of the game is spoken universally whether he was performing in front of the Pope, Presidents or children of all ages. We were proud to recognize Meadowlark as part of our Hall of Fame family and we will continue to celebrate the joy that he brought to so many people.”
According to ESPN, the Harlem Globetrotters tweeted that they would “dedicate the team’s 90th-anniversary tour to Lemon and former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Marques Haynes, who died in May.”
Meadowlark Lemon showed that playing basketball isn’t all about money, or winning, but it is enjoying the journey and bringing your dreams to reality. Yes, the Harlem Globetrotters won their games, but he proved that you can have fun, play pranks on the other team members, throw buckets of confetti on the audience and still be known for the international sport of basketball. He influenced millions of young people showing them they could succeed. Meadowlark Lemon will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and fans during this time.