Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon died Sunday at age 83, according to the team.
— Harlem Globetrotters (@Globies) December 28, 2015
As the “clown prince of basketball,” Meadowlark Lemon was the most famous of the Globetrotters, the barnstorming fun-and-games squad first created in 1926. Lemon was a fan of the team as a kid and joined up with them after finishing a stint in the US Army in 1954.
His official bio says that he eventually “traveled more than 5 million miles and played in more than 16,000 lifetime career basketball games,” and attributes his longevity to clean living: he abstained from alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. His bio is also not shy about his accomplishments:
Meadowlark Lemon helped change the face of American history, Black history, and Sports history! Meadowlark has played basketball before Kings, Queens, Presidents, Popes, and for millions of fans all over the World! Meadowlark has performed his on-court artistry in more than 100 countries around the Globe! As an international star with the Harlem Globetrotters, Meadowlark was also known as an “Ambassador of Good will in Short Pants.”
Lemon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 — quite an accomplishment for someone who didn’t play in college or the NBA. The New York Times called him “a gifted athlete with an entertainer’s hunger for the spotlight.”
His given name was Meadow Lemon, but he changed it to Meadowlark in the 1950s, later saying: “The birds named meadowlark are known for their sweet and happy songs. I always tried to put a song in the hearts of my fans.”