Meadowlark Lemon, the "clown prince" of basketball's barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters, whose blend of hook shots and humor brought joy to millions around the world, died Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz., at age 83.
Lemon's wife and daughter confirmed his death to the team, Globetrotters spokesman Brett Meister said Monday. Meister did not know the cause of death.
Though skilled enough to play professionally, Lemon wanted to entertain, his dream of playing for the Globetrotters hatched after watching a newsreel of the all-black team when he was 11.
He ended up becoming arguably the team's 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. A sign of his crossover appeal, he was inducted into both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame.
"My destiny was to make people happy," Lemon said as he was inducted into the basketball hall as a contributor to the game in 2003.
Lemon played for the Globetrotters during the team's heyday from the mid-1950s to the late-1970s. He covered nearly 4 million miles to play in over 100 countries, averaging 325 games per year during his prime.
"Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I've ever seen," NBA great and former Globetrotter Wilt Chamberlain said shortly before his death in 1999. "People would say it would be [Julius Erving] or even [Michael] Jordan. For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon."
Lemon spent the last years of his life trying to spread a message of faith through basketball. He became an ordained minister in 1986 and was a motivational speaker, touring the country to meet with children.
Yankees deal for Reds' Chapman
The New York Yankees bolstered an already dominant bullpen, acquiring hard-throwing All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman from Cincinnati for four minor leaguers.
Chapman became available after the Reds' deal with the Dodgers fell through earlier this month when it was learned Florida police investigated an accusation of domestic violence involving the Cuban lefthander. Major League Baseball is currently investigating and Chapman could face suspension under the league's new domestic violence policy.
"We felt this was an opportunity to add a big arm to our bullpen, even though there are some things that are unresolved," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. "And we will respect that process as it plays out."
New York was able to protect its top minor leaguers in the deal, sending righthanders Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda to Cincinnati. Jagielo was New York's No. 1 pick in 2013 (26th overall).
The Yankees will have to wait to set up their enviable bullpen of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances until the investigation is done. MLB has indicated it will take as long as it needs to thoroughly vet the matter. The league is also investigating domestic violence incidents involving Colorado's Jose Reyes and the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig.
• Oakland agreed to a one-year contract with 25-year-old pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter for Miami in 2013 and made the NL All-Star team in 2014 but is coming off shoulder surgery July 28 and made only four starts for the Marlins this year.
AROUND THE HORN
Hockey: Linus Soderstrom made 46 saves and Alexander Nylander scored and Sweden shut out the United States 1-0 in the world junior hockey championship in Helsinki. The United States, which fell to 1-1 after beating Canada in its opener, couldn't score despite having eight power-play chances.