A couple of months ago I had a chance to chat for a few minutes with Harlem Globetrotters legend Meadowlark Lemon. It was at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s enshrinement dinner on September 11, 2015 while the both of us were strolling from the pre-induction reception at the MassMutual Center over to Springfield Symphony Hall, where the ceremonial speeches take place.

The walk between venues with him was surreal, because it was unplanned; we just both happened to leave the building at the same time. I felt that he would like some company, so I joined him for the leisurely journey of about 50 yards by foot. It was just Meadowlark and me.

Meadowlark Lemon

Meadowlark Lemon strolling with Claude Johnson between venues at the Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 11, 2015. (Claude Johnson)

Perhaps to prove to myself that this actually occurred, I took this pic (above) of him while we walked. (I deliberately chose to not do a selfie because we had previously met, the prior year, when we posed in the photo below.)

After re-introducing myself, I took the opportunity to ask Meadowlark if he thought that Albert “Runt” Pullins, one of the founding members of the original Harlem Globetrotters, should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Being a fellow ‘Trotter, he definitely agreed, but, diplomatically, was quick to point out that there are many early African American basketball pioneers who deserve a place in the Hall, not only Pullins.

Meadowlark was also very encouraging about the work we do at the Black Fives Foundation, for which I will always be grateful.

That little encounter was very special indeed. Meadowlark Lemon seemed like a gracious, wonderful, confident man. I wish I had had a chance to catch up with him earlier. In fact, I had a chance to call Meadowlark after the enshrinement weekend (thanks to legendary coach Del Harris) but I kept putting it off, eventually planning to do so after the New Year, in hopes of setting up an audio interview. I believe we would have had a great conversation and now I regret and am sorry for having waited so long.

We send our condolences and blessings to his family and friends. We all lost a great American treasure.

Meadow “Meadowlark” Lemon III, 1932-2015. Rest in Peace.