Tebben Lopez/The Mirror

Whether as an athlete or entertainer, musician or minister, this former Harlem Globetrotter is known worldwide as the “Clown Prince” of basketball and for good reason.

Meadowlark Lemon was the featured speaker at Monday’s Open VISIONS forum and throughout his talk, it was hard not to find a smiling face in the audience.

For over 20 years, Lemon toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters while he thrilled fans with his special basketball talents, using a comedic style that was able to cross both language and racial barriers during tumultuous times.

By the end of his time as a Globetrotter, Lemon (who is now 79 years old) played in over 16,000 consecutive games and deservedly earned entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Although Lemon has been able to meet the likes of President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, he has never forgotten his early influences that motivated him throughout his illustrious career.

“I think sports is one of the common denominators in life. When I saw my favorite players when I was young, they not only were fun to watch, but they made the ball talk. That’s when I knew what I wanted to with my life. I got my vision without television,” said Lemon.

Lemon has proved to be an inspiration to people of all ages, whether it’s by bringing 15-year-old kids on stage to pass along life lessons or reminiscing with Fairfield professors about the golden era of athletics.

“Lemon is in an elite group of international athletes. Whether he is with a United States President or a royal head of state, he is the same person. He’s one of the greatest ambassadors the United States has ever had and is truly a legend,” said Professor Eliasoph, the Open VISIONS moderator.

Fairfield athletics was well represented at the event with Coach Sydney Johnson of the Men’s Basketball team having the opportunity to converse with Lemon in a roundtable discussion.  Both the Men and Women’s Basketball teams were present at the talk, laughing hysterically at Lemon’s natural antics while also taking in his words of wisdom.

“Athletes shouldn’t worry about the money, if you work hard enough the money will come. It’s important to get a good education, there are plenty of people who go to school but don’t have character. Be the best person you can possibly be,” said Lemon.

Taryn Johnson, senior forward of the Women’s Basketball team, was chosen to introduce Meadowlark Lemon and she could not have been more honored to do so.

“I have a great deal of admiration for his devotion and passion for people around the world. He’s played in so many countries and in over 16,000 games. He’s the heart and soul of the Harlem Globetrotters,” said Taryn Johnson.

Lemon’s commitment and passion has certainly not lessened with age. From creating two musical albums to becoming an ordained minister, it is clear that Lemon is a man of many talents. But regardless of how busy he is, Lemon still wakes up at 6 a.m. every day to train, while still working on his basketball game.

“I was having fun out there and was loving what I was doing, and I still do. But I didn’t want to just be a player, I wanted to be the best comedic basketball player of all time and I am. It was a gift, I was born to play this game,” said Lemon.

Lemon was also promoting his new book, “Trust Your Next SHOT: A Guide to a Life of Joy,” at the event, a memoir as well as a self-help guide. The “Clown Prince” also hinted that there might be a movie in the works based on his life.

After hearing Lemon’s uplifting words, it is evident that Lemon was born to do more than play basketball.

“We need to laugh and have fun again,” said Lemon. “People come up to me on the street and say that we brought joy to them. That’s what we need more of today.”

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