Harlem Globetrotters' Meadowlark Lemon dies at 83

media captionMeadowlark Lemon chose the life of an entertainer, as Paul Blake reports

Meadowlark Lemon, the Harlem Globetrotters player known as the "clown prince" of basketball, has died at the age of 83.

Lemon played for the side for 24 years, delighting fans with his trick shots and hijinks.

When he was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 2003 he said his destiny had been "to make people happy".

The team confirmed that he died on Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"He was an incredible entertainer and brought happiness and lifelong memories to millions around the world," said Globetrotters chief executive Kurt Schneider.

"We have lost a great ambassador of the game."

image copyrightAP
image captionMeadowlark Lemon blended great skill with showmanship
image copyrightAP
image captionLemon was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 2003

Lemon grew up in North Carolina and joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 1954.

He quickly became known for his hook shots from half court and no-look behind-the-back passes, but also for his showmanship.

He was renowned for comedy routines such as tipping water buckets full of confetti over referees and audiences.

Many of the all-black team's tours took them through the racially-torn southern US states in the 1950s.

The Globetrotters became world famous, even playing games in Moscow during the Cold War when they met Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

In the early 1970s, the team - including Lemon - featured in a Hanna-Barbara cartoon series.

He left the Globetrotters in 1979 and launched several of his own basketball teams.

In an interview with US broadcaster ABC in 2001, Lemon said the Harlem Globetrotters were never driven by money.

"We were having fun; we enjoyed what we did and I find that the young kids today, you know, they either go to college to learn to play basketball so they can make a lot of money. This wasn't with us.

"We enjoyed what we did. I just wanted to be out there and entertain."

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