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Famed Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon has died at the age of 83.

Lemon died on Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz., the NY Times reported, citing his wife, Cynthia Lemon.

Playing for the eclectic Harlem Globetrotters was always Lemon’s dream, and that dream came true in 1954 as he not only became a member, but took the squad to new heights. Lemon played ball at a boys’ club growing up in North Carolina, and was so poor, that he used a coat hanger as a hoop and an onion bag as a net. After high school, he briefly attended Florida A&M University before joining the army for two years. And that’s when the real fun began.

Prior to the forming of the NBA, the Globetrotters played for larger crowds than the Boston Celtics and even the New York Knicks. After all, Wilt Chamberlain did play for the trick-squad for a year. The team also helped propel diversity in the league, as the Globetrotters provided a bit of a scouting report for Black players. Lemon was there when the Globetrotters transformed from being an actual competitive team to the lighthearted and talented jokesters they are now. During the team’s competitive days, they’d go against local colleges and play ball normally, until they knew they’d win. And that’s when the real fun began. It’s pretty hard to argue with a nine-year, 2,495-game winning streak.

After becoming the star of the show, eventually retiring in the late ’70s and joining the Hall Of Fame, Lemon became an ordained Christian minister and founded the nonprofit Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in 1994. He spent the last several years of his life as a motivational speaker.


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