Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Meadowlark Lemon at basketball clinic

Meadowlark Lemon at basketball clinic

Jan. 26, 1972: Harlem Globetrotters’ Meadowlark Lemon demonstrates ball-spinning skills to youngsters at the William Nickerson Playground in South Los Angeles.

This photo accompanied an in-depth article on the Harlem Globetrotters by staff writer Dwight Chapin in the Jan. 30, 1972, Los Angeles Times. About Meadowlark Lemon, Chaplin wrote:

… The coach, and the star, is Meadowlark Lemon, a comedian in sneakers. The Trotters call him “The Clown Prince of Basketball.”

He’s no giant, only 6-2 and 180 pounds. But he seems larger than life on the court because he has a Red Skelton flair for pantomime, a Charlie Chaplin touch for the absurd.

“When I was a kid in North Carolina,” he says, “I never wanted to be a truck driver or a doctor or a lawyer when I grew up. I wanted to be a basketball player.”

He can’t count the games he’s been in. Good games, bad games. Good times, bad times. Nights when you don’t feel like playing. He had a heavy cold this night, and all day had been downing heated grapefruit juice and hot tea (“Make the water as hot as you can,” he told the waitress). He would keep drinking the stuff after the game.

But for now it was showtime. Meadowlark Lemon’s time. Play the fool. Make the little ones laugh and the big ones escape an unfeeling boss or a carping wife or maybe just live out a dream of how the world should be.

He was christened Meadow Lemon (He’s changed the first name, officially to Meadowlark “because it makes less hassle signing checks”) and he joined the Trotters out of the Army in either 1954 (the team’s account) or 1956 (his account). He succeeded the fabled Goose Tatum as chief clown. …

For more, check out 2015 Los Angeles Times obituary on Meadowlark Lemon.

Fitzgerald Whitney took this image during a free basketball clinic organized by the Globetrotters.

1 Comment

  1. July 16, 2016, 12:47 pm

    Lemon spent the last years of his life trying to spread a message of faith through basketball. He became an ordained minister in 1986 and was a motivational speaker, touring the country to meet with children at basketball camps and youth prisons with his Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Meadowlark Lemon Ministries.

    By: snail me

Add a comment or a question.

If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.


Required, will not be published

Browse All Photos »