strong>THUNDER BAY – Meadowlark Lemon the famed Harlem Globetrotter basketball legend has died at age 83. Lemon was the heart of the Harlem Globetrotters during the 1970s which many feel were the basketball teams banner years.
Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Vision International University in Ramona, California, in 1988.
In his last years, he took up residence in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, Inc. and Meadowlark Lemon’s Harlem All Stars maintained an office, and in which city he died.
During his 24 seasons with the Globetrotters, Lemon played in more than 7,500 consecutive games, performing for popes, kings, queens, presidents and innumerable fans in nearly 100 countries around the world.
“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.”
The Globetrotters are dedicating this, their 90th anniversary tour, to Lemon and fellow Harlem Globetrotters legend and Hall of Famer Marques Haynes, who passed away in May.
In April 1952, the Globetrotters received a letter from Lemon requesting a tryout. After serving two years in the Army – where he played a few games with the Trotters on an overseas tour – Lemon was given a tryout by Globetrotters’ owner Abe Saperstein and made the cut. Lemon played his first season with one of the Globetrotter developmental teams, the Kansas City Stars, and played his first season full season with the Globetrotters in 1954.
Lemon was part of an extremely popular period in Globetrotters history, appearing on several popular television programs and specials, including “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” “CBS Sports Spectacular,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine.” He also appeared in numerous national TV commercials and was immortalized in animation on “The Harlem Globetrotters” cartoon series and on episodes of “Scooby Doo.”
Lemon was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, three years after receiving the John W. Bunn Award, named in honor of the Hall of Fame’s first executive director, recognizing outstanding lifetime contributions to basketball.
A native of Wilmington, N.C., Lemon received a Globetrotters “Legends” Ring and had his number 36 jersey retired as part of a 75th anniversary black tie charity fund-raiser on Jan. 5, 2001, at Chicago’s Fairmont Hotel. Lemon spent the last several years of his life serving as an ordained minister and motivational speaker.
Celebrating 90 iconic years of providing smiles, sportsmanship and service to millions, The Harlem Globetrotters® are a worldwide icon, synonymous with one-of-a-kind family entertainment and great basketball skills. Throughout their history, the Original Harlem Globetrotters have showcased their iconic talents in 122 countries and territories on six continents, often breaking down cultural and societal barriers while providing fans with their first-ever basketball experience. Proud inductees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Globetrotters have entertained hundreds of millions of fans – among them popes, kings, queens, and presidents – over nine thrilling decades. Harlem Globetrotters International, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Herschend Enterprises, the largest family-owned themed entertainment company in the U.S.