Meadowlark Lemon, one of the most recognizable members of the Harlem Globetrotters traveling basketball troupe, died on Sunday at the age of 83. Lemon was best known for his amazing ball-handling skills, over-the-top court antics and his infamous water bucket prank among other acts.
Born Meadow George Lemon III on April 25, 1932 in Wilmington, N.C., the future hoops icon briefly attended Florida A&M University before being drafted into the Army. In 1955 at the age of 23, he made the Globetrotters squad and began a long and fruitful career of thrilling fans around the world.
Lemon left the squad for the first time in 1980, playing for a series of Globetrotter-like exhibition squads before returning to the troupe in 1994, although he was a member of his own “Meadowlark Lemon’s Harlem All-Stars” squad. He played 50 games in his final year with the Globetrotters, and claimed he played around 16,000 games during his five-decade career.
Over that period, Lemon became a household name. His natural charisma led to television appearances in commercials along with a cartoon series and live-action series with fellow famed Globetrotter Fred “Curly” Neal.
In 1986, Lemon became an ordained minister, establishing his Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in Scottsdale, Ariz.