Harlem Globetrotters’ Legend Meadowlark Lemon Dies At 83
The only move that Meadowlark Lemon performed that I didn't like was when the Harlem Globetrotters left the castaways stranded on Gilligan's Island. That was not cool.
Lemon, who became synonymous with the Globetrotters through a 25-year career with the traveling basketball troupe, playing roughly 16,000 games in nearly 100 countries, passed away in Scottsdale, AZ, on Sunday. Lemon joined the Globetrotters in 1954 after a stint in the U.S. Army, and quickly became the team's key player and featured attraction.
He had dreamed of joining the Globetrotters since seeing the team in newsreel footage in his native Wilmington, N.C., and, according to various interviews, never regretted not playing in the NBA. Not only would he have been good enough to play in the league, but Wilt Chamberlain, who played for the Globetrotters for one year before he was eligible for the NBA, once called him the greatest basketball player he ever saw -- "better than Michael Jordan" (via the New York Times).
The Globetrotters were best known as a comedy troupe: winning games against a series of foils -- most often the Washington Generals -- while employing a series of intricate ball tricks and wild, unusual plays. But many forget that in their earlier days, the Globetrotters won games in more conventional ways -- barnstorming the U.S. to play local all-star teams and college teams and the like.
Although clearly their most popular player until he left the Globetrotters in 1978, Lemon drew criticism in the 1960s for leading what many perceived as a minstrel show, performed during the defining decade of civil rights.
After leaving the Globetrotters, Lemon led his own traveling basketball group and performed into his 70s. He also became an ordained minister and motivational speaker. His cause of death is unclear, and was announced by his wife on Sunday.
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