Ex-Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon dies

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Former Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon has died. He was 83.

Globetrotters spokesman Brett Meister said Lemon’s wife and daughter confirmed to the team that he died Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Meister did not know the cause of death.

Known as the “clown prince” of the barnstorming basketball team, Lemon used a blend of hook shots and humor to bring joy to millions of fans around the world.

Lemon was arguably the most famous player for the Globetrotters, performing for the all-black team during its heyday from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s.

The showman known as much for his confetti-in-the-water-bucket routine as his hook shot and no-look passes was inducted into both the basketball and clown hall of fames.

Lemon later formed Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, traveling the country to provide a message of faith to children in basketball camps and in youth prisons.

Lemon was one of basketball’s greatest showmen, using a combination of skill and slapstick comedy to entertain millions with the barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters.

Lemon’s legacy will live on in his famous gags.

A rundown of his greatest hits:

HALFCOURT HOOK SHOT: While Kareem Abdul-Jabbar perfected his Skyhook around the basket, Lemon was the undisputed king of the long-range hook shot. Once a game, Lemon lined up at half court and sent hook shots flying toward the rim. More often than not, he made it on the first or second try, leaving the crowd astounded that he could hit a shot like that from half court. It became one of the most anticipated parts of every Globetrotters game.

CONFETTI BUCKET: Another Globetrotters favorite that Lemon perfected was the confetti-in-the-water-bucket routine. It started with Lemon chasing one of the referees around with a bucket of water, eventually splashing him in the face. Lemon would then return to the court with another bucket and end up throwing it onto unsuspecting fans – with confetti instead of water on the second go-round.

NO-LOOK PASS: Long before Magic Johnson made the no-look pass a staple of the NBA, Lemon had it as a part of his entertainment arsenal. But Lemon didn’t just throw ordinary no-look passes; his staple was the no-look, wrap-around pass that typically set up an easy dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

RUBBER BAND FREE THROWS: Another Lemon staple was the rubber-band free throw. Once a game, he would fake an injury and return with a trick ball to shoot a free throw. Instead of the ball going to the basket, it would snap back to Lemon, drawing laughs from the crowd. Lemon would then swap out that ball with a weighted one and hand it to the referee, who would drop it in astonishment.

REF PANTSING: The referees were often the foils for the Trotters and one of Lemon’s favorite gags was to pull down the pants of an “unsuspecting” official during the game. The ref would often feign embarrassment and often wore boxer shorts with designs that Lemon could make fun of, leading to laughs from the crowd.

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN: The signature moment of every Harlem Globetrotters game was when the players gathered in a circle and showed off their ball-handling and passing skills as “Sweet Georgia Brown” played over the loudspeaker. Lemon was the ringleader – as he was during the entire game – whipping passes behind his back, rolling balls across his arms and shoulders, bouncing passes off his backside.