Hoops legend to bring positive message, athleticism to Patterson
by Marc Aceves | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 18, 2012 | 870 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During his pop culture heyday in the 1970s, Meadowlark Lemon was arguably the most recognizable face in the game as the Harlem Globetrotters’ “Clown Prince,” who helped bring basketball into the modern era.

He played everywhere from his hometown of Wilmington, N.C. to Madison Square Garden in New York City and in more than 100 countries in front of all types of people.

And now, he is brining his show to Patterson.

Lemon and others, including Les “Pee Wee” Harrison and TyRone “Hollywood” Brown, will play with the Harlem All-Stars in a charity basketball game at 7 p.m. April 28 at Patterson High School.

In 2000, the Basketball Hall of Fame gave Lemon its John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, he was fully inducted into the hall.

Lemon left the Globetrotters more than 30 years ago and reportedly is pushing 80, but the “ageless” athlete — who puts his age at “between 18 and 150” — is not retired.

His patented hook shot still tickles nylon nets, and his comedic touch still entertains.

“I have a passion for (basketball),” Lemon said of the game he has played — mostly with a smile on his face — in front of kings, queens, presidents, paupers and popes. “I love the game.”

Today, he’s an ordained minister with a doctorate of divinity. He runs the Meadowlark Lemon Foundation, headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he now lives. It reaches out to everyone from at-risk youth to disadvantaged American Indians.

“We provide the template and the support,” Lemon said, describing his efforts as benefit-driven, playing games and raising money for various causes. “It’s about doing the right thing. We see the needs people have in this great country, and we want to help bring joy to their lives.”

Lemon left the Globetrotters, he said, to have more balance in his life. A Christian evangelist, he awakens daily at 4 a.m. Then, after stretching, shooting baskets and running wind sprints for 2.5 hours, he turns to his ministry. As an evangelist, he said, he makes more than 100 appearances a year.

Lemon also finds time to play 60 to 80 games annually. That’s down from 350 a year he used to play with the Globetrotters worldwide, but still quite a load for a near-octogenarian.

A team of local celebrities — representatives from Patterson High and special guests, including Patterson Mayor Luis Molina — will take on the professional entertainers during next week’s game.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Center for Human Services’ Patterson Teen Center, a local hub for youth activity and community engagement.

In addition to the game, Lemon will entertain fans behind the microphone with a halftime presentation dedicated to the Patterson Teen Center.

“Everything that people saw me do years ago, all of the antics that I've created, will be on display,” Lemon said. “This is an evening for families. We’re looking for everyone in the community to come out and watch the game.”

Next week’s matchup will be second nature to Lemon, who has played in tens of thousands of games. His past teammates include Wilt Chamberlain and two players who later found their fame as Major League Baseball players — Hall of Fame pitchers Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson.

Throughout his career with the Globetrotters, Lemon was regularly featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and even appeared in cartoon form on “Scooby Doo.”

“I’m an athlete,” Lemon said, “but athletes are entertainers, and entertainers can be comedians. I’m all of the above.”

In looking back on his long career as an athlete and entertainer, Lemon said he hoped the joy the Harlem All-Stars give to fans never fades. He said he never tired of the endless handshakes and hugs from fans.

“I’m happy with what we have been able to accomplish,” Lemon said. “I like what certain dignitaries call us: ‘America’s goodwill ambassadors in short pants.’”

Tickets for the charity game can be purchased in advance for $15 to $20 at Patterson High School, 200 N. Seventh St., or at the Hammon Senior Center, 1033 W. Las Palmas Ave. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $50.

For information: City of Patterson Parks and Recreation Department, 895-8180; or Patterson Teen Center, 895-3536.

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