Monday, December 28, 2015
George "Meadowlark" Lemon, the "Clown Prince of Basketball" who entertained fans as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters for 24 years, died Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 83.
Lemon, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, joined the Globetrotters in 1954 at age 22 and stayed with the traveling show until 1978, appearing in more than 16,000 games in more than 100 countries.
He is among five Globetrotters to have their numbers retired since the team was founded in Chicago in the 1920s.
Former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Marques Haynes, the dribbling magician, died in May.
Lemon thrilled millions of fans around the world with his long hook shots, no-look passes, ballhandling skills and his ability to make fans laugh with the Globetrotters' bag of tricks -- including throwing buckets of confetti on unsuspecting fans as Lemon chased the referee with what was thought to be water.
Lemon left the Globetrotters in 1978 over a contract dispute and formed his own traveling teams -- the Meadowlark Lemon's Bucketeers, the Shooting Stars and Meadowlark Lemon's Harlem All-Stars -- as he continued to play well into his 70s.
He later formed Scottsdale-based Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, traveling the country to provide a message of faith to children in basketball camps and in youth prisons.
Aside from Lemon's No. 36, other Globetrotters to have their numbers retired are Wilt Chamberlain (13), Fred "Curly" Neal (22), Haynes (20) and Reece "Goose" Tatum (50). Washington Generals founder Red Klotz also had his number retired.
Tatum also played first base with a giant glove for the Indianapolis Clowns traveling baseball team, usually against local all-star teams.