Meadowlark Lemon, who became known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” during a run of more than two decades as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, died Sunday. He was 83.
Globetrotters spokesman Brett Meister said Lemon’s wife and daughter confirmed to the team that he died Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Meister did not know the cause of death.
A North Carolina native born Meadow Lemon III, Lemon recalled making his first basketball hoop out of an onion sack and a coat hanger and using an empty can of Carnation milk to sink his first two-point shot, according to Lemon’s website.
He played college basketball at Florida A&M and was drafted into the Army for two years before he applied to join the Globetrotters in 1954. Lemon said he had seen the Globetrotters playing on newsreels, passing the ball to the tones of the distinctive “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and was struck by the all-black squad. Black players were still a novelty on the court, the NBA having only integrated in 1950.
“When they got to the basketball court, they seemed to make that ball talk,” Lemon said during his Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech in 2003. “I said, ‘That’s mine. This is for me.’ I was a receiving a vision. I was receiving a dream in my heart.”
The determined Lemon began playing for the team in 1955.