Basketball's 'Clown Prince' Meadowlark Lemon Was a Force for the Gospel
WASHINGTON -- The worlds of basketball and Christian ministry are mourning the death of Meadowlark Lemon.
Lemon died Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 83.
Also known as the "Clown Prince" of basketball, Lemon played for the Harlem Globetrotters comedy entertainment basketball team for 24 years during their heyday, from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s.
Growing up in the segregated south during the 1940s, a young Lemon had his hopes set on one thing: becoming a Harlem Globetrotter.
At 11 years old, Lemon was inspired after seeing the famous basketball troupe on a newsreel. Although he didn't have a ball or basketball hoop, the young Lemon began to hone his skill with a hoop made from a coat hanger and a basketball net made from an onion sack.
His basketball was a can of Carnation condensed milk.
According to his biography, Lemon firmly believed "that God planted this dream in his heart and then gave him the relentless desire, determination, energy and the talent to pursue his dream."
As an accomplished athlete, Lemon achieved that dream when he was contacted by the Harlem Globetrotters before finishing high school. But, before he could begin that career he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
After his military service was completed Lemon officially became a Harlem Globetrotter. He played in more than 100 countries, including in front of world leaders.
His superstar status transcended basketball as he appeared in more than 20 television shows including The Ed Sullivan Show, Scooby Doo, and Hannity. Lemon also appeared in several commercials advertisements for companies such as Pepsi, Burger King and the Salvation Army.
The 6'3" hoop star was known for the infamous confetti basket in which fans were doused with a basket filled with confetti. Lemon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Lemon spent the last years of his life spreading the gospel through basketball. He became an ordained minister in 1986. He received his Doctorate of Divinity from Vision International University.
In 1994 he founded a Christian evangelistic organization, Meadowlark Lemon Ministries. He also served as chaplain for several NFL and NBA teams.