Meadowlark Lemon, the “clown prince” of basketball who showcased style and skill with the Harlem Globetrotters for nearly a quarter-century, died on Sunday, his wife told The New York Times. Lemon was 83.
He played an impressive 16,000 games, delighting crowds with tricky, slick moves aimed to thwart his opponents and evoke laughter at a time, according to The New York Times, when the Globetrotters were more popular than the NBA itself.
A player who dreamed of joining the Globetrotters as a boy, Meadowlark Lemon was famous for his half-court hook shots and over-the-head dribbles, among other moves. He was the center of the team’s signature showstopping antics and for 22 years bolstered the brand’s reputation as a brilliant mix of top entertainment and superlative skill.
After leaving the Globetrotters in 1978 he started his own teams and played well into his 70s. But in later years, Meadowlark Lemon became a minister — his audience quite smaller, more reverent — in Scottsdale, Ariz., far from the razzle-dazzle of the court. It was there that his wife, Cynthia Lemon, confirmed to The New York Times that he had passed away. No cause of death was given.
Meadowlark Lemon was “an American institution like the Washington Monument or the Statue of Liberty” whose “uniform will one day hang in the Smithsonian right next to Lindbergh’s airplane,” Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray once wrote. Lemon’s former teammate Wilt Chamberlain, another famous virtuoso, said he was the best in the sport, hands down,
“Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I’ve ever seen,” Chamberlain said not long before his death in 1999. “People would say it would be Dr. J or even (Michael) Jordan. For me, it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”
Sportact Editors and Wire Services