Growing up in North Carolina during World War II, Meadow Lemon dreamed of being a comedian or a basketball player. The Harlem Globetrotters allowed him to be both at the same time. Lemon joined the Trotters, basketball's slap-happy road show, in 1954 and played several thousand games over the next 25 years while acquiring the nickname "The Clown Prince of Basketball."
Deft ball-handling and hook shots from half court were highlights of Lemon's act. As the Globetrotters' center, he was the hub of their frenetic passing game and led many stunts, including a medicine ball-basketball switch, the rubber-banded foul shot, plays from football and baseball formations, and a water-bucket trick that ended with Lemon dousing members of the audience with confetti.
Wilt Chamberlain, Lemon's teammate for one season in the late 1950's, said that Lemon was the most incredible athlete he'd ever seen because of Lemon's ability to swish 30-foot hooks "as if he had a magnet drawing the ball to the basket."
Born April 25, 1933, in Lexington, South Carolina, Lemon was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was the best basketball player the town had seen until Michael Jordan came along three decades later. Lemon made all-state in football and basketball at Williston High School. His intrigue with the Globetrotters began when he saw the film The Harlem Globetrotters.
He wrote the team to request a tryout even before finishing high school. Before he got the chance to try out, though, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952 and served two years in West Germany. During one of the Trotters' visits to Europe, he contacted Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein, who allowed him to practice with the team.
In 1954, Lemon officially joined the Globetrotters and eventually added "lark" to his first name. During a quarter-century with the Trotters, Lemon played a grueling schedule lasting eight months and nearly 300 games a year. His teammates included luminaries such as Marques Haynes and Curly Neal as well as a host of sidekicks with names like Tarzan, Goose, and Showboat. He retired from the Globetrotters in 1979 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.