Meadowlark Lemon, Basketball’s Court Jester

Meadowlark Lemon delights entranced youngsters at Nickerson Recreation Center. in Los Angeles, circa 1972. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library.On April 25, 1932, Meadow Lemon III was born in Lexington County, South Carolina. He moved to Wilmington at age 6.

A fan of basketball from an early age, Lemon used to tell the story that his first basketball ensemble was a hoop made from an onion sack and a coat hanger with a Carnation milk can as a ball. After seeing the famed Harlem Globetrotters in a movie theater newsreel, he ran home to tell his father that he planned to join the team. In 1954, he did just that.

Lemon changed his name to Meadowlark in the late 1950s, but he was also widely known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball.” Though a slick player with phenomenal ball-handling skills and a long-distance hook shot that rarely missed the hoop, it was his cheeky comedy on the court that propelled him into the spotlight.

The best-known Globetrotter, Lemon became a television star, portraying himself in television shows like Gilligan’s Island and in cartoons including Scooby Doo.

Lemon retired from the Globetrotters in 1979, became an ordained minister in 1986 and established Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in 1994.

Inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 200, Lemon died in 2015.

Visit: Meadowlark Lemon’s Globetrotters uniform is among the hundreds of sports-related artifacts on view at the N.C. Museum of History’s North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame exhibit.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.