Monday, 28 December 2015

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMON-A Tribute To Meadowlark Lemon

Meadows Land .


Dunkin' Donuts. New York City thats where you can find me when this Englishman writer in New York is on holiday, or as our U.S. neighbours call it 'vacay'. Call it tradition. Every time I go to my Eden M.S.G. to watch the Knicks play. After watching the team with no middle (maybe thats all changed now Porzingis) I grab a donut at the shop ajacent from Madison Square. Some Dunkin after some dunking. It has to be done. But last night Carmelo and the boys where at another Garden in Boston so why was I here? A kid passes the window bouncing an ABA blue and white basketball. He's got to be careful though as he tries to spin it on his finger...its got autographs on it from all members of the Harlem Globetrotters. Thats why! He's palming himself a piece of history...legacy.


The oldest, best and most original basketball team...did we mention most fun? Icons thats can still bring the Worlds Most Famous Arena, The Garden down even when the New York Generals are playing and the Knickerbockers are not. Even when Tom Brady's uptown doing his thing and hundreds of orange and white jerseys downstairs from M.S.G. descend to where Penn Station will take them. The Globetrotters can still take the world by storm on earths biggest stage, just blocks away away from the electrical, entertainment core of the universe in Times Square, that in just a few days will have a million eyes in it watching the ball drop, as a billion watch on T.V.'s worldwide, as New York meets New Year. Every calender year these Globies from uptown N.Y.C. in Harlem tour more than the Rolling Stones, no matter how old the franchise gets. Celebrating 100 years in this game. Bringing another countless contest to yet another high-wire dunking, worldwide record shot, glitter bucket throwing, the court circus is in town, game winning close last night.

But tragically and coincidentally this morning we where awoken by the news thats its founding father, its first star has left us to join the hoop heavens.

The original Harlem Globetrotter, Meadowlark Lemon has died at 83 years of still ever young age.

"Better than M.J. and Kobe combined"-Chris Rock.

Did you see that? I can't believe my eyes! A hoops head see's a lot of things in Harlem-Bobbito Garcia, Kobe Bryant just turning up-but nothing like this! This kid is crazy! He's dribbling around what represents the whole of New York, like these nationals are paper towers. Not the Chrysler and Empire State Building skyscrapers they are supposed to represent. He's sliding on the floor, like grease was used to clean this court and he's staying there like the static in his shorts wont relent. He's still keeping the dribble though, as close to his chest as it is to his hand. Spinning around on the floor like he's breakdancing to a Run-DMC classic. It's like that and that's the way it is! But here's the hook, he rises, keeps control, spins some more, fakes more times than cosmetic surgery in Beverly Hills and flashes a genuine smile that is, like this game, what it's supposed to be all! Even the defenders can't help from having their cheeks break into smiles along with their ankles, as they are all left for dust. Some opting to mop up that greasy mess that should be back there down court, because right now they would make a better living cleaning and paving the floor for the greats. The rest of defence are now spectators, like the audience that's drove miles in their masses to witness this. The paint is this young mans red carpet now as the flashbulbs make camera moments...but...wait! He pulls up like people in their cars on the outside who can't get a seat. Here comes the shot as jaws drop, like eye-lids be damned refuse to. Blink and you'll miss it. The ball goes up. Rising like yeast for the bread! It's all beautiful like the rotation, now just wait for the butter. Then...wait! What!? SNAP! Suddenly, the ball pops back from mid-air right back in the opposite direction and right into this kids palms! What in God's great earth was THAT!? Call that a gooseneck?! This is some Houdini wizardry. Forget Magic! Everyone's shaking their heads and looking at the Mexican Wave almost, in-sync head disbelief to either side of them for an explanation. Only in Harlem right!? The guys still smiling as someone finally finds the words to ask, "Meadowlark! How do you do that?!" (From the Harlem Globetrotters article 'Harlem World' published in 2014).

When life gives you Lemon...he changes the game. And everybody that loves it. Personally as a basketball writer I have to thank Mr. Lemon for all his inspiration to me. Although I never had the pleasure of knowing him, or the honour of meeting him and although I dont want to lay claim to things like this in his passing, I have to thank Meadowlark for reaching out to me. Following this above article two years back he shared it with his followers, which hopefully means he read that above paragraph about him (so he knows what he means to a kid from a country where they dribble ball with their feet) and then he also started following me on Twitter. Although its only social media and something small it meant a lot and will always be appreciated. I tried to reach out for an interview but alas he was still busy at 80. The Global Ambassador (you see him bringing this beautiful game to the love of Parker's Paris) who taught Betty Ford how to dribble on the Oval Office carpet in the White House was probably schooling someone else. Retirement? Nah there was nothing senior about this citizen. Breaking ankles whilst most are replacing hips. Till death do them part? Nah bury Lemon with a red, white and blue basketball, this American hero and flagship Globetrotter will still be dribbling it all the way to the pearly gates (I mean this was a guy who shot his first milk carton basket at an onion sack propped up with a coat hanger...and then went on to play 16,000 games with the Globes). They say heaven is green...well it really is a playground now. With meadows of Lemon. All for this kid from Harlem who dribbled and trotted the globe until he changed both basketball...and the world. In fact forget a cliche...for his names sake he was more like Naismith. Forget changing the game...he re-created it. There's no M.J. No Kobe. No King without the Prince. On the throne as the most famous Globetrotter despite everyone from Nelson Mandela to Scooby Doo becoming one in his honour. Give this man a statue, series, or even a movie. Here's to Meadowlark Lemon. Hall Of Famer. Minister. The Clown Prince. The worlds most entertaining basketball player. THE Harlem Globetrotter.


Sunday, 20 December 2015


Forever 24


Just because someone is broken down doesn't erase all the great things they've done...

I Still Believe In Kobe Bryant...

1996. Shades atop the bald M.J. like cut of the next greatness to his airness. A kid whose about to play in front of the Hollywood celebrity types who are no stranger to that type of sunglasses indoors look announces that straight out of high school he's about to take his LeBron James decision to the talents of the NBA. He looked too hot too handle. Too good to be true. Too cocky? Too much air in that aviator covered dome? Well the kid Kobe was only 18 and he was bound for greatness...albeit some mistakes too. Utah, the Salt of the Lake City for the Laker. Nothing but nitrogen and oxygen. Airball after airball until the birds called. Young Kob' couldn't hit much on his way to the postseason of a rookie year that seasoned him even as a young pro. He couldn't make music against the Jazz. Mailer daemon, failed to deliver against future teammate Karl 'Mailman' Malone. His best fade was away with his afro. But it wouldn't be long before leather met nylon and Kobe met the legend of Larry again and again, year after year, circling around again. Just like a ring. How it all changes...

2016. And in this New Year, Kobe will be resolute in his poetic, press conference announcement and the conclusion of his rocking chair retirement tour of his last 82 game NBA season. Arena to arena. Player to player. From fellow high schooler, now old school, still here and back home in Minnesota Kevin Garnett, to new kid on the Californian block D'Angelo Russell. From Madison Square Garden to the STAPLE of his one, true home. Heroes come and go but legends are forever. Muse to muse. Stephen Curry to LeBron James. All the tributes. All the testaments. All the devotion. All the dedications. All the crowds. All the cheers. All the long three balls just for show. And then again, 20 years later as the former 18 year old future of the franchise and league, pushing 38 and all he can do with the rock starts shooting at air once more. Face it father time is real. It's crazy how it all comes around. Like infants becoming seniors. The rise and fall either side of prime time. The circle of basketball life and a legends career. It's all too raw and all too real. But to the chef and the King watching, watch closely because one day it'll all be us too. Time just gets away from matter how much true grit we have. It'll happen to the Spur sheriff Tim Duncan matter how old he gets. Magic and the greatest ever to do it initialed M.J. knows that all too well. As does the icon of the logo Jerry West. You can only clutch at it for so long. One day all that's good must pass and come to an end. But in the air of all those missed shots tonight comes one that makes. And then another...and another...and another. Brick, swish, brick. Swish, swish, swish. Swish, Swish...SWISH.

I Still Believe In Kobe Bryant...

And then out of nowhere he gets more air and then takes flight like the vintage, still in warm ups slam dunking, champion child he once was. Jamming a dunk home. Rising against the Rockets. Even Dwight Howard had to give it up. There's nothing realer than reconciliation. The tributes keep flowing in. No wonder this superhero caught iron like Tony Stark. No rim like old Wizard M.J. at All Star. The air is still there. The Kobe Nike's still just doing it with those old cleat, sneaker steps. Even the kid D'Angelo thinks his mentor could play for another two years with hops like that. Even if that could have been how he ended up putting that shoulder out. You always knew he'd rise again. I mean this is a guy that tore his Achilles and then tried to push it back in place, before getting back up, making two free throws and walking off wheelchair. All doubt to that dedication. Even that negative is a career highlight like a maverick 62 in three quarters. Just let another former foe like Dwight tell it, as legend Reggie Miller clutches at the perfect quotable soundbite; "there's still venom in the Mamba"! Word to Vino!

I Still Believe In Kobe Bryant...

You can't deny in this last run. Everything this man has done. The partnership with Shaq. The dynasty that will always last. The gassed up refuel with Gasol. The reunion and redemption with the Zen Master. The duos with teammates that he helped and they helped alike. The greatest role player to ever do it Derek Fisher. One of the most, all round talented players to ever put the ball on the floor and play this game, no matter what Lamar Odom (stay up, stay well). And now the new small-ball revolution, big-three of the continuing Lake Show, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and the number one, number 24 should look after, this years second pick, Russell. And talking of numbers. Number 8? Number 24? Which do you retire? Both! Come on where talking about a guy who scored 81 points in a single game. Second only to Wilt's 100! Put that up! A Laker legend as big as Chamberlain, Kareem, Minneapolis' Mikan, or even Shaq. Let alone the logo or the Magic playing card. A legend of the NBA and its history as a whole. The closest thing to the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan. Hero or villain. Dark Knight or Darth Vader it doesn't matter. In these Star Wars this guy was a Phantom Menace, even at times with the operatic mask. A basketball Jedi that still isn't done. The force is still awakening.

I Still Believe In Kobe Bryant...

Dear Basketball. He penned you one last love letter, signed, sealed and delivered to his season swansong. This is how much you mean to him. He gave you his all. Body and soul. That's true love and if you can't see it, you can read it in this players tribute in The Players Tribune. From tube socks to game winning shots. Little Italy to the Great Western Forum. Jellybeans to red grapes of vino wine. He fell in love with you and we fell in love with him. Sole to soul. Hustle to heart. Pounding. Grinding. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...gone. Goodbye. Love always. And Dear Kobe. I wrote letters to you too. No Stan, just a fan. I told you after the first injury that crippled your career that we all knew you'd come back. I told the world that would listen that I wouldn't bet against you. I wrote stories and tributes to you. So much so I created a series. The only one to feature more than number 24, was one less in 23 for 'The Jordan Series'. More than a hash-tag trend it was my dedication to the end. As a matter of fact, as humble as it is. As small as it is. No matter how far it all goes or how big this all gets. The first article I ever had published for SLAM was about you. I was barely 25 and I called it 'Thirtysomething' and now as one myself with a half decades of experience and more articles for more outlets and plenty more dedications wrote later I owe my career to you. Your gift. Your inspiration. Your muse. It's simple as that, but how do I find the right words to thank you? The influence to what you've done to my life is ingrained like your palm on the seams of the basketball. And for that to this day all I can say is thank you once again. And once again, to this day, your last one in this game may be coming, but not yet. It's far from over. There's still so much more to come. Still so many games to play. Still so many articles to write. Still so much more. Still.

I Still Believe In Kobe Bryant...

Do you?