Obituary: Famed Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon (real name: Meadow Lemon III, some sources say George), 83, perhaps the most famous member of the basketball exhibition team, has died.
He later became an ordained minister and motivational speaker.
Lemon dreamed of becoming a Harlem Globetrotter, which blends comedy and theater on the basketball court, when he was a boy. He was named to the team in 1955 after he attended Florida A&M University and served in the U.S. Army during the early 1950s.
He played with the Globetrotters until 1980, when he left to join a Globetrotters knock-off team, the Bucketeers. He also played with another team, the Shooting Stars, in the ‘80s before forming his own Globetrotters-like team, Meadowlark Lemon’s Harlem All Stars. The Globetrotters was his first love, however, and he rejoined the team for their 1994 touring season.
As a youth, I enjoyed watching the Globetrotters on television, where they made numerous appearances. Usually I can't stand basketball and can't sit through it, but they were entertainment through and through.
The New York Times said the Wilmington Star-News said Lemon's birth name was George Meadow Lemon III.
As a boy in Wilmington, he learned basketball at a local boys’ club; he told The Hartford Courant in 1999 that he was so poor that he practiced by using a coat hanger for a basket, an onion sack for a net and a Carnation milk can for a ball. After high school, he briefly attended Florida A&M University before spending two years in the Army.
Stationed in Austria, he played a few games with the Trotters, who were then touring Europe, and he performed well enough to earn a tryout after he mustered out. He was assigned to a Globetrotters developmental team, the Kansas City Stars, before joining the Globetrotters in 1954.
Asked about never having played in the N.B.A., Lemon told Sports Illustrated in 2010, “I don’t worry that I never played against some of those guys.”
Upon looking at the Wilmington Star-News website, it had an article published by the Washington Post saying he was born Meadow George Lemon III. The Times noted there were a lot of inconsistencies with his real name.
Whatever his real name was, he was a great entertainer. Wilt Chamberlain said he was the best basketball player he had ever seen, and I would consider that high praise.