Inspired By Globetrotters As Child
Meadow George Lemon III was born April 25, 1932, in Wilmington, North Carolina. When his parents separated a few years later, Lemon's mom moved to New York City. His father, Meadow George "Peanut" Lemon II, worked for the Wilmington Waste Paper & Recycling Co. and gambled to help make ends meet. Needless to
say, young Lemon spent a great deal of his childhood living with his aunt and uncle and cousins.
As a youngster, Lemon and his friends played football and spent their weekends at the Ritz movie theater, where they could watch a whole day's worth of shows for 25 cents.
When Lemon was 11, he went to the Ritz and saw a news clip that irrevocably changed the course of his life. The clip featured the Harlem Globetrotters, strutting their stuff to their theme song, "Sweet Georgia Brown."
"They flew up and down the court, passing, dribbling, shooting, rebounding," Lemon recalled in his autobiography, Meadowlark. "My heart raced. My head nearly ached. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
It wasn't just the athletic prowess that captivated young Lemon. "It was the joy, the teamwork, the sense of family," Lemon recalled. "It was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen in my life."
Lemon bolted from the theater before the feature even started, leaving his buddies behind. Lemon's mind was made up: he would do whatever it took to become a Globetrotter. At the time, Lemon had never even touched a basketball—the neighborhood kids said the sport was for sissies. Undaunted, Lemon went home and crafted a basketball hoop from a clothes hanger and an onion bag. In place of a ball, he used an empty evaporated milk can and started shooting.
A year later, when Lemon was in the seventh grade, a Boys' Club opened in his neighborhood. Lemon finally got his hands on a genuine basketball, limp and flat as it was. He spent his free time at the Boys' Club, dedicating hours and hours to dribbling and ball-handling. In time, a man named Earl Jackson took an interest in Lemon. He showed the youngster how to shoot a right-handed hook shot. Lemon worked endlessly on the shot, until the motion felt fluid, instinctive. That's when Jackson showed him the left-handed hook shot, and he began all over again. It was a shot Lemon would become famous for as a Globetrotter.
During eighth grade, Lemon spent nearly every afternoon and every Saturday at the Boys' Club. Months and months had passed since he first began practicing, yet Lemon didn't feel as though he'd made any progress. The other boys seemed to possess a natural ability for the sport. Lemon yearned to float around the court instinctually, to find the rhythm of the game.
Lemon was good enough to make the Boys' Club basketball team—as a benchwarmer. Over the course of the season, however, Lemon worked his way off the bench and into the game. Finally, the game began to click. Lemon floated around the court gracefully, knowing when to gather speed, when to slow down, all the while pivoting, passing, and shooting.
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