Pick a place, any place. Use a globe, an atlas, a GPS, an online search. Wherever you choose, odds are Meadowlark Lemon played basketball there.
In Africa, it was on grass. In Germany, it was on a court fashioned out of desks. Desks! In Spain, it was inside a bullring.
"We played a lot in England and Ireland and places in that area," Lemon says. "We played outside because they didn't have a big enough arena. We usually played on a soccer field. If it started raining, you couldn't stop, because if you stopped, you had to give the money back."
Lemon, the famed Harlem Globetrotter known as the "Clown Prince of Basketball," will share these stories and more Saturday night at Book Revue in Huntington. No stranger to barnstorming, Lemon, an ordained minister, is on a tour to promote his book "Trust Your Next SHOT: A Guide to a Life of Joy" ($24.95, Ascend).
Figuring out where to begin in recounting some of Lemon's stories is like digging through buckets of scrap paper looking for an important phone number. Where do you even start? Wait, that's the perfect place.
As a member of the Harlem Globetrotters from 1954-78, Lemon became an expert showman. He ruled the game with half-court hook shots and entertained the crowds with his infamous confetti-in-the-water-bucket trick.
In the face of hardship, Lemon smiled and made the crowd smile with him. "When we came up to something that would be difficult and odd to play basketball, we didn't think anything of it," Lemon says. "Just another test. We would get out there and go through it. And that's what part of the book is about. Trust your next shot. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing in life, you have to trust it."
The book is full of motivation, inspiration and outstanding one-liners that cap off colorful stories such as "No one ever forgot the dunk that knocked over the general's wife!" In other words, it's Meadowlark Lemon.
Lemon says he wanted his book to be different from other books written by athletes. How could it not be? How many American athletes can tell stories about eating caviar with former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev? How many can say they've played basketball in front of every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, not to mention a few kings, queens, popes and paupers?
"Our presidents called us 'ambassadors of goodwill in short pants,' and that kind of stuck with us," Lemon says. "We were able to go places that our government couldn't go. We were able to go places that armies couldn't go, because we didn't go there with nothing other than to love people and to bring joy."
Lemon continues to hoop it up, now as a member of his Harlem All-Stars. He wakes up at 4 a.m. each day at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and plays for an hour or so. Between the Globetrotters, and several other traveling basketball teams, by Lemon's calculation, he has started and played in 16,117 consecutive games.
He's 78 years old, but he won't tell you that. "I'm ageless," he likes to say. "Just take it as I give it to you."
How can you argue with a man who has been inducted into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame?
WHEN | WHERE 7-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington
INFO 631-271-1442, bookrevue.com
WHEN | WHERE 1 and 6 p.m. Feb. 20, Nassau Coliseum
INFO 800-745-3000, nassaucoliseum.com
The tricks never get old, no matter how old you get. And the "Magic Weave" still begets wonder and awe. But when the Harlem Globetrotters make their annual stop at Nassau Coliseum next month, they'll be bringing something you've never seen before.
Behold, Long Islanders, the 4-point shot. For a group of barnstorming basketballers and touring tricksters, the three-point shot is a little gauche. So, the Globetrotters back it up another 12 feet and tack on an extra point. And really, if you're going to drop a 35-footer in the face of a Washington General, you deserve an extra point.
Harlem's roster has a bit of local flavor as well. Central Islip's Solomon "Bam Bam" Bamiro (Stony Brook) and former St. John's guard Willie Shaw are now Globetrotters.