Harlem Globetrotters Legend Meadowlark Lemon Dead at 83
For folks who are old enough that they think “Jenkins” first when they hear the name Fergie, Sunday was a sad day that saw the passing of a legend. For me, it was an especially bitter occasion, since I had to find out about it from this guy:
I mourn the passing of my childhood hero Meadowlark Lemon. As a cartoon, when paired with Scooby Doo and solving crimes, he was transcendent
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) December 28, 2015
I hate to break it to you, Rob Lowe, but you’re actually mourning the passing of Scatman Crothers, who voiced Meadowlark Lemon in those cartoons. The real Meadowlark Lemon died yesterday at the age of 83, leaving behind millions of cherished childhood memories.
Lowe’s philistine appreciation of Meadowlark does serve to backhandedly illustrate the greatness of Lemon and the team he personified, because the feats they performed on the court could not be duplicated, let alone improved upon, by even the boundless imagination of cartoons. It’s like trying to duplicate a Monet using an Etch-a-Sketch.
When I was a little kid growing up in Plainfield, there were just a few names we used to fight over before a basketball game. Doctor J, Wilt Chamberlain, and Meadowlark Lemon were the ones every kid wanted to be, with Geese Ausbie usually rounding out the squad. This worked out well for me, since Curly Neal was always my favorite Globetrotter.
No matter who we were pretending to be, though, we always whistled “Sweet Georgia Brown” and made up our own words to the Meadowlark Lemon song. If there had been a YouTube back then, it would have been chock full of hilarious #GlobetrotterFail videos, because we routinely nailed ourselves in the face (or other parts) trying to duplicate their stunts. I wish I had a nickel for every time I took one in the nuts trying to dribble between my legs like Curly.
Whoever your favorite was, Meadowlark was the king. He had so much game, Mr. Whipple even let him squeeze the Charmin. He was more than just a hero to millions of kids, he was the heart and soul of a team that made you smile just to think about them.
That’s why it didn’t even bother me when, while looking for a photo to use in this post, I stumbled across this:
Jesse Helms and Meadowlark Lemon were both native North Carolinians, as the inscription on the photo indicates, and what the hell, isn’t this a testament to Meadowlark’s ability to soften even the hardest hearts? Say what? Meadowlark Lemon campaigned for Jesse Helms in 1984, and even appeared in political ads for him?
Don’t care. Well, I care, but I still love Meadowlark Lemon because literally no one who ever met him came away without a smile. Well, except maybe the ex-wife who stabbed him with a steak knife in 1978, but I bet when he got to the hospital, Lemon probably cracked the doctors and nurses up doing tricks with the knife they pulled out of his back.
Meadowlark left the Globetrotters that year, apparently over money, but as far as I was concerned, it was just so he could start another team to spread the laughter around. He later became an ordained minister, which could partially explain his fellowship with Helms, with whom he shared similar views on abortion and school prayer.
Of course, we never knew any of that, or any of the other things that get obsessed over in this social media era. I have no idea how much money Meadowlark or Curly ever got paid, although I’m sure it wasn’t enough. To me and millions of kids, Meadowlark Lemon represented the idea that you could be black and be hilarious and beat that ass 24/7. If there’s a heaven, the angels are about to go on a long-ass losing streak.
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