A Tribute to Harlem Globetrotters Meadowlark Lemon

Growing up in a small town like Brownsville, Tennessee, there was very little that was going on at the time that a black kid could hold their heads up to.  What we saw on the ole black and white television were people who didn’t look like us and all the heroes of my time wore white like the Lone Ranger or blue like Adam-12 and the team from Emergency.  Some wore white like Marcus Welby, M.D. or Dr. Ben Casey but the ultimate hero for me was John Wayne another that only allowed me to watch his antics on the screen and model myself after.  That was before the Harlem Globetrotters were televised a few times and then was the only time that I could ever dream of making it on the big screen.

The only downside to this dream, to me, was having the ability to play basketball and of all the skills I possessed, playing basketball was one I sorely lacked in.  The next major obstacle was over-coming the sneers and jeers I would hear about these men from people of my own race.  They would talk about how much of a clown Meadowlark Lemon and the rest of the players were and how the white man would never see us as anything but a court jester.  They used to belittle the attributes and accomplishments of these men because they were not acting dignified or professional.  It truly used to bother me a lot until one day, someone interviewed Meadowlark Lemon and asked him about the comments.  I remember hearing him say something like, we are all responsible for what we bring to life and that life is not worth living if we are ever afraid be who we are.  He mentioned how much joy he would see on the faces of the children that came to see them play and how that would carry many of the players from city to city.  He remarked on how that sight would inspire them to do more and look forward to the next game.  This brought him immense joy and made his life worth living.  That was the first time I ever truly considered how bringing a smile to a person’s face was worth the price of admission and the feeling that you get after seeing that real smile was worth putting up with all the naysayers.

Today, I learned that the great Meadowlark Lemon had died at the age of 83 and even though I know that the soul of this man will be present in my heart for the rest of my days here on this earth, I still mourn.  Now I never got a chance to meet the man and I did not know him personally but to see the joy that he brought to the faces of people who watched him and to see someone like me who could touch the world in a positive way, kept me from seeing only the negative and accenting more on our positives. Meadowlark Lemon may have been the Harlem Globetrotters biggest draw back in the day but he will always be one of my biggest influences and the reason why I will continue to try and find happiness in a field of sorrow and forever reach for that golden ring instead of just settling for the brass one. 

The shell of my biggest hero may be laid to rest in the ground somewhere but the soul of this man and so many others like him shall live within my heart and soul forever.  Rest in Peace, Meadowlark but know that there is at least one person left upon this earth who shall strive to be worthy of your life lasting gift that you left behind.


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