SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (WNCN) – Meadowlark Lemon, a North Carolina native who was a mainstay of the Harlem Globetrotters, died Sunday, according to The New York Times.
The Times said his wife, Cynthia, confirmed her husband’s death.
Lemon played basketball and football for Williston High in Wilmington and joined the Globetrotters in 1954 after he finished a tour in the Army. The Globetrotters had a massive impact, especially in the early years, as an all-black team when the NBA was just beginning to integrate. In the early years, the Globetrotters would play double-headers with NBA teams to help the NBA draw fans.
Lemon was a huge part of the Globetrotters’ act, earning the nickname the “Clown Prince of Basketball” in his 26 seasons with the team. He was known for a spectacular hook shot and for being able to effortlessly spin a basketball on his finger.
“Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I’ve ever seen,” Wilt Chamberlain once said. “People would say it would be Dr. J or even Jordan. For me, it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”
The Globetrotters used funny tricks and antics to liven up their many crowds, but they were also highly skilled basketball players. Lemon and Curly Neal (who was bald) formed the backbone of the Globetrotters act for years.
Neal, a brilliant ball-handler, is also a North Carolinian, having grown up in Greensboro and he played college basketball at Johnson C. Smith.
Lemon joined the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.