Harlem Globetrotters legend Meadowlark Lemon, 83, dies Meadowlark Lemon, the "Clown Prince of Basketball" who entertained fans as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters for 24 years, died Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona, the team announced. He was 83. No cause of death has been given. Lemon, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, joined the Globetrotters in 1954 at age 22 and stayed with the traveling show until 1978, appearing in more than 16,000 games in more than 100 countries. Though skilled enough to play professionally, Lemon instead wanted to entertain, and his dream of playing for the Globetrotters began after watching a newsreel of the all-black team at a cinema house when he was 11. Lemon ended up becoming arguably its most popular player, a showman known as much for his confetti-in-the-water-bucket routine and slapstick comedy as his half-court hook shots and no-look, behind-the-back passes. "My destiny was to make people happy," Lemon said in 2003 as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a contributor to the game. He is one of only five Globetrotters to have their numbers retired since the team was founded in Chicago in the 1920s. "For a generation of fans, the name Meadowlark Lemon was synonymous with the Harlem Globetrotters," said Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider. "He was an incredible entertainer and brought happiness and lifelong memories to millions around the world. We have lost a great ambassador of the game." Lemon also received the John W. Bunn Award in 2003 for his outstanding lifetime contributions to basketball. He played for the Globetrotters during the team's heyday from the mid-1950s to the late-1970s, delighting fans with his skills with a ball and a joke. Traveling by car, bus, train or plane nearly every night, Lemon covered nearly 4 million miles to play in front of popes and presidents, kings and queens. He averaged 325 games per year during his prime, that luminous smile never dimming.