Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon has died in Scottsdale, Arizona, of undisclosed causes. He was 83.
A longtime member of comedy basketball team, Lemon helped make the team become a pop cultural phenomenon of the 1970s and 80s. On the court, Lemon was famous for his unbelievably long hook shots, no-look behind-the-back passes and his clownish antics, which included surprising fans with buckets of confetti.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Meadowlark Lemon. He was 83. #RIPMeadowlark,” the team tweeted.
— Harlem Globetrotters (@Globies) December 28, 2015
Known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball,” Lemon joined the world-renowned Globetrotters in 1954 when he was just 22 years old. According to NBC Sports, he played in more than 16,000 games in 97 countries until leaving the team in 1978 over a contract dispute. He later formed several comedy basketball teams, including the Meadowlark Lemon’s Bucketeers, the Shooting Stars and Meadowlark Lemon’s Harlem All-Stars. He continued to play into his 70s.
— ABC News (@ABC) December 28, 2015
According to the Associated Press, Lemon starred in the NBC comedy series Hello, Larry from 1979-1980 and appeared as a guest star on shows like Alice, Diff’rent Strokes, Here’s Boomer and Scooby Doo, as well as many Harlem Globetrotters TV specials. He also appeared on the big screed in the 1979 comedy The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, about a hapless basketball team, and appeared in 1981’s Modern Romance.
— Us Weekly (@usweekly) December 28, 2015
Lemon like to give back to the community. An ordained minister and motivational speaker, Lemon enjoyed working with youth, promoting a message of clean living and hard work as the keys to success.
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, Lemon was one of only five Harlem Globetrotters to have their numbers retired.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) December 28, 2015
“For a generation of fans, the name Meadowlark Lemon was synonymous with the Harlem Globetrotters,” said Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider. “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 is survived by his wife, Cynthia, and 10 children.