Harlem Globetrotters legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Meadowlark Lemon died Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 83.
Lemon joined the Globetrotters in 1954, and was the comic genius at the center of the show as the Globetrotters gained national exposure through regular appearances on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. It was his team that inspired both a animated Globetrotters series and a Saturday-morning variety show on CBS.
“For a generation of fans, the name Meadowlark Lemon was synonymous with the Harlem Globetrotters,” Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider said in a statement. “He was an incredible entertainer and brought happiness and lifelong memories to millions around the world. We have lost a great ambassador of the game.”
Lemon left the Globetrotters in 1978 due to a contract dispute, having played more than 16,000 games in over 100 countries. He continued playing on his own touring teams into the 21st century, and briefly reunited with the Globetrotters in 1994.
He began his basketball career at Florida A&M, but ended up joining the U.S. Army. After two years in uniform, he contacted the Globetrotters, beginning his career with them at the age of 22. Over the next 24 years, he entertained fans with the pranks he played on the referee, the hook shot he could hit from anywhere in the building, his ball handling at the center of the Globetrotters’ weave and, at the end of the night, the bucket of confetti thrown on to some unsuspecting fans.
The Great Meadowlark Lemon of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters dies at 83. Rest In Basketball Heaven Sir! pic.twitter.com/X8BXKLxiV9
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) December 28, 2015
In his later years, Lemon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor – the Globetrotters have also been inducted as a team – and he finally hung up his sneakers to run a Christian ministry.