By Eric Butler: Freedom Newspapers
No longer does he go from gym to gym to the tune of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” but former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon is still trotting around the globe. Instead of playing basketball, he’s spreading the word of God.
“I’m coachable, so when the spirit of the Lord told me to do this, pray for the young athletes, I did it,” Lemon said during an appearance Friday at Faith Christian Family Church in Clovis. “This is what I do and I love doing it.”
As 75 to 100 children stepped forward to the front of the sanctuary, Lemon added, “This is my ministry.”
Wendy Sharpe of Portales was impressed with Lemon’s message.
“I loved the way he prayed over the children and he had some time with each one of them — and mine was one of them,” said Sharpe, who attended the service with her 6-year-old son, Daniel.
A regular with the Globetrotters from 1957 to 1979 and known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball,” Lemon said, yes, he can still make the halfcourt hook shot he was famous for. In the 1970s, the touring basketball group was a Saturday TV regular — with a cartoon based on the players and frequent appearances on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
Lemon, who turned 71 this year, answered a couple of usual queries right off the bat Friday night.
“I always get asked two questions. Is that my real name? Yes. And do I still have it?” said Lemon, who then nodded emphatically.
Lemon, enshrined in 2003 in the Basketball Hall of Fame, pointed out he and Michael Jordan grew up in the same town in North Carolina.
“Michael Jordan got something from me. I didn’t pray for Michael, but I’m praying for you,” said Lemon, who began full-fledge ministry work 17 years ago.
“Basketball was great, a lot of fun; got to go to a lot of places. But this is the best time of my life at the pulpit,” he said.
The game of basketball was utilized on different levels for the audience members. For the children, Lemon did a quick demonstration of his ball-handling skills with one of the children in attendance.
“Look up, son, you’re gonna be hit in the eye,” said Lemon, before passing the ball to the youngster in a myriad of ways.
For the older church-goers, Lemon related basketball to his faith through metaphors. At one point, he said a basketball rim is actually large enough to fit two balls at the same time.
“It’s big, man. I don’t know how people miss free throws — I mean, they’re free, you know,” said Lemon, before asking the audience if they knew of anything else that was free.
“Salvation is free,” he answered himself. “You have to be a complete idiot to go to hell.”
Lemon said afterward that it was friend and former bodyguard Mark Yancy, who moved to Clovis three weeks ago, who asked him to come to town to speak. Lemon also said he recalled performing at the Clovis High gym just over 10 years ago when he played with the Globetrotters for one last encore tour.
“I’m on the road about 45 weeks out of the year. This is the first December where I’ve ministered about eight or nine times,” said Lemon, who lives in Arizona. “Usually I don’t do that because I like to stay home in December.”
Who: Meadowlark Lemon,
former Harlem Globetrotter
When: 11 a.m. Sunday
Where: Legacy Life Family Church, 7th and Main St., Clovis