George “Meadowlark” Lemon, known also as the “crown prince” of basketball who who entertained millions of fans around the world with his antics as a longtime member of the Harlem Globetrotters, died Sunday, December 27 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 83.
Lemon played 24 seasons and nearly 16,000 games with the Globetrotters, the touring exhibition basketball team known for its slick ball-handling, practical jokes, red-white-and-blue uniforms and multiyear winning streaks against overmatched opponents.
“It’s the joy that counts in life. Not the points, not the things, not the stuff,” Meadowlark would say.
Though skilled enough to play professionally, Lemon instead wanted to entertain, his dream of playing for the Globetrotters hatched after watching a newsreel of the all-black team at a cinema house when he was 11.
Lemon ended up becoming arguably the team’s most popular player, a showman known as much for his confetti-in-the-water-bucket routine, on-the-court comedy antics with referees, and even his half-court hook shots and no-look, behind-the-back passes.
A sign of his crossover appeal, Lemon was inducted into both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame.
Lemon also pioneered a trademark routine in which he doused a referee with a bucket of water and then pranked fans by heaving another bucket — filled with confetti, not water — into the stands as people scrambled to get out of the way.
“For a generation of fans, the name Meadowlark Lemon was synonymous with the Harlem Globetrotters,” Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider said. “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.”
One of his greatest quotes was an affirmation that he did what he was called to do: “My destiny was to make people happy.”
And we are thankful that you did.
Rest in paradise Meadowlark.