Hall of Famer and former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon died on Sunday, his wife Cynthia confirmed to The New York Times, at the age of 83.
Lemon started out with the Globetrotters in 1954 and played with the team all the way through 1978, entertaining fans from across the globe for nearly a quarter century. He is one of only five Globetrotters to have his jersey retired by the team.
Lemon was a talented player, but it was his showmanship that made him a legend. He was well-known for his long hook shots (and he may have gotten a tip or two on that from one-time teammate Wilt Chamberlain), and gags such as entering the opposing teams huddle and chasing the referee around with buckets of confetti.
Even after he left the Globetrotters in the late 1970s, Lemon continued to play basketball, and his website claims that he played in 16,000 games over the course of 50 years.
For recognition of the impact he had on the growing popularity of the game in the ’50s and ’60s, Lemon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
The New York Times has a pretty great breakdown of Lemon’s complete legacy, but no quote sums it up better than this one from Wilt Chamberlain himself.
“Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I’ve ever seen,” Chamberlain said in a television interview not long before he died in 1999. “People would say it would be Dr. J or even Jordan. For me, it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”