Meadowlark Lemon

Meadowlark Lemon

Lemon in 1988
Born Meadow Lemon III[1]
(1932-04-25)25 April 1932
Wilmington, North Carolina
Died 27 December 2015(2015-12-27) (aged 83)
Scottsdale, Arizona
Occupation Basketball player, actor, minister
Known for The Harlem Globetrotters
Spouse(s) Cynthia Lemon (m. 1994–2015)
Children 10

Meadow Lemon[1] (April 25, 1932 – December 27, 2015) was an American basketball player, actor, and Christian minister (ordained in 1986). From 1994, he served Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in Scottsdale, Arizona.[2][3] For 22 years, he was known as the "Clown Prince" of the touring Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.[4] He played in more than 16,000 games for the Globetrotters and was a 2003 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. When basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain was asked his opinion on the best player of all time, he responded, "For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon."[5] Fellow Wilmington great Michael Jordan called Lemon a "true national treasure" and a personal inspiration in Jordan's youth.[2]

Early life

Lemon was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and attended Williston Industrial School, graduating in 1952.[6][7] He then matriculated into Florida A&M University, but was soon drafted into the United States Army, serving for two years stationed in Austria and West Germany.[6][8]


Lemon meeting Betty Ford during a 1974 visit to the White House


Lemon made his first basketball hoop out of an onion sack and coat hanger, using an empty Carnation milk can to sink his first 2-point hoop.[9]

Lemon first applied to the Globetrotters in 1954 at age 22, finally being chosen to play in 1955. In 1980, he left to form one of his Globetrotters imitators, the Bucketeers. He played with that team until 1983, then moved on to play with the Shooting Stars from 1984 to 1987. In 1988, he moved on to "Meadowlark Lemon's Harlem All Stars" team. Despite being with his own touring team, Lemon returned to the Globetrotters, playing 50 games with them in 1994.[10]

In 2000, Lemon received the John Bunn Award,[11] the highest honor given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame outside of induction.[12] He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.[11][13]

Television appearances

In the 1970s, an animated version of Lemon, voiced by Scatman Crothers, starred with various other Globetrotters in the Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon series Harlem Globetrotters,[14] as well as its spinoff, The Super Globetrotters.[15] The animated Globetrotters also made three appearances in The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

Lemon appeared alongside Fred "Curly" Neal, Marques Haynes and his other fellow Globetrotters in a live-action Saturday-morning television show, The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine, in 1974–1975, which also featured Rodney Allen Rippy and Avery Schreiber.[16]

In 1978, Lemon appeared in a memorable Burger King commercial by making a tower of burgers until he found a double-beef pickles and onions with no-cheese burger.[17]

In 1983, Lemon appeared in a Charmin toilet paper commercial alongside Mr. Whipple (actor Dick Wilson).

In 2009, on FOX's TV show The Cleveland Show, the name of Meadowlark Lemon was used for a dog's name for the character of Rallo Tubbs. The dog died in the first season.

Other work

In 1979, Lemon starred in the educational geography film Meadowlark Lemon Presents the World. Also in 1979, he joined the cast of the short-lived television sitcom Hello, Larry in season two, to help boost the show's ratings; in the same year, he played Rev. Grady Jackson in the movie The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. It was several years before he actually became an ordained minister himself.[18]

In 1982, Lemon was featured in the Grammy-nominated video Fun & Games, an interactive educational video produced by Optical Programming Associates and Scholastic Productions, on the then-emerging LaserDisc format.[19][20]

Personal life

Lemon has 10 children: Richard, George, Beverly, Donna, Robin, Jonathan, Jamison, Angela, Crystal, and Caleb.[1]

Lemon's estranged first wife, Willye, pleaded guilty to simple assault after admitting to stabbing Lemon with a steak knife in 1978.[21][22] After his first marriage ended in divorce,[22] Lemon married Dr. Cynthia Lemon in 1994.

A born-again Christian, Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Vision International University in Ramona, California, in 1988. He was also featured as a gospel singer within several Gaither Homecoming videos.[23] In his last years, he took up residence in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, Inc. is located.[18]


Lemon died in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 27, 2015, at the age of 83. No cause has been given.[22]


  1. 1 2 3 "Meadowlark Lemon Biography - Official Website". Meadowlark Lemon Official Website.
  2. 1 2
  4. "Meadowlark Lemon, "Clown Prince" of Harlem Globetrotters, dead at 83". CBS News. December 28, 2015.
  5. Wilt spoke of regrets, women and Meadowlark Associated Press PHILADELPHIA October 13, 1999
  6. 1 2 Henry Louis Gates, ed. (2008), "Lemon, Meadowlark", African American National Biography, Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, pp. 214–215, ISBN 9780195160192
  7. John Grasso (2010), Historical Dictionary of Basketball, Scarecrow Press, p. 200, ISBN 9780810875067
  8. David K. Wiggins (2015), African Americans in Sports, Routledge, pp. 203–25, ISBN 9781317477440
  9. "Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon dies at 83". December 28, 2015 via
  10. "Basketball Hall of Fame on the Passing of Meadowlark Lemon, Class of 2003" (Press release). Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. December 28, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  11. 1 2 "Hall of Famers: Meadowlark Lemon". Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  12. "The John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award". Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 28, 2015. Outside of Enshrinement, the John Bunn Award is the most prestigious award presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame.
  13. "Hall of Famers Index". Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 28, 2015. See the "Category" column on the left of the page.
  14. Harlem Globe Trotters - S1 Ep1 - The Great Geese Goof Up. March 2, 2014 via YouTube.
  15. YouTube.
  16. Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine (Opening & Closing). May 3, 2007 via YouTube.
  17. Meadowlark Lemon Burger King Commercial. September 14, 2013 via YouTube.
  18. 1 2 AP (December 28, 2015). "Former Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon dies at 83". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  19. "Thanks, Grammy!". Billboard. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  20. "Fun & Games (1981)". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  21. "17 May 1978, Page 27 - at".
  22. 1 2 3 Weber, Bruce (December 28, 2015), "Meadowlark Lemon, Harlem Globetrotter Who Played Basketball and Pranks With Virtuosity, Dies at 83", The New York Times
  23. Thank You, Jesus [Live]. November 1, 2012 via YouTube.
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