Hoops legend to visit Rogue Valley

A legendary sports figure will make an appearance in Medford this weekend.

Meadowlark Lemon, known for 24 years as the "Clown Prince of Basketball" with the Harlem Globetrotters, will play with the Harlem Comedy All-Stars in a charity basketball game on Saturday at 5 p.m. at South Medford High School.

All proceeds from the event go directly to Hadley Hope, a local non-profit organization raising awareness for Niemann-Pick Type C disease.

"Anytime you can help somebody, it's really a blessing," Lemon, 77, said. "That's what we are supposed to be doing. That's what life is all about."

Lemon is considered the most distinguished member of the Harlem Globetrotters. He's traveled more than 4 million miles and played in nearly 16,000 basketball games in his career — some in front of popes, kings, queens and presidents.

He was most recognized for his patented hook shot and comedic touch. Lemon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

"There's no greater performer than Meadowlark Lemon," said Les "Pee Wee" Harrison, a former member of the Globetrotters who organizes the Harlem Comedy All-Stars. "I've been playing with Meadowlark for 23 years. I have seen it all. He can single-handedly run a show. He doesn't need props. He doesn't need anything. He's still more famous overseas than most NBA players.

"We're the ambassadors of joy. Every day, our job is to bring joy to somebody's life in some form or fashion. Spend an evening with us, and we'll give you laughs that will last a lifetime."

That's the goal of the evening, as well as to help a worthy cause.

Hadley Hope was founded by Bryan and Laura Hadley of Medford. They are the parents of three children, two of whom — Peyton, 11, and Kayla, 6 — are diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C disease.

"It's one of the rarest of all rare diseases," Laura Hadley said.

Niemann-Pick Type C disease affects the body's ability to break down and transport fats and cholesterol, leading to harmful buildups in the spleen, liver, lungs, bone marrow and brain.

It is estimated to affect 1 in 150,000 people, though there are only approximately 500 known cases worldwide, with slightly more than 100 of those being in the United States.

Life expectancy past 20 years of age is rare.

The family remains connected to the most cutting edge research and hosts a variety of charity events to fund research.

"We are looking for therapies that will help the children now," Hadley said.

Organizers are hoping to raise $15,000 this year. The same event raised $20,000 in Salem last year. The Harlem Comedy All-Stars will perform in Salem tonight before arriving in Medford.

"We've got to figure out a situation where we can do this annually," Lemon said.

Lemon lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and operates the Meadowlark Lemon Foundation. He makes 30 to 40 appearances per year throughout the country for various causes.

"We're going to have a great show," said Lemon, who is a regular visitor to Oregon as his son and four grandsons have been affiliated with the Linfield football program in McMinnville. "The baby boomers who grew up with me are going to see a lot of the old things we used to do like the old water bucket trick or the rubber ball trick. We're going to harass the referee like always. It's going to be real family-style entertainment. It's going to be a fun weekend."

In addition to the game, halftime entertainment includes a paper airplane contest. Entry is $1 and prizes range from $50 to $100 in value, including a signed basketball from former local prep standouts Kyle and E.J. Singler.

Members of the Harlem All-Stars will also be available after the game to sign autographs, and fans can purchase miniature basketballs for $3 or two for $5.

Local DJ Gemineye from KISS (107.5-FM) will entertain fans behind the microphone, and TV reporters Brian Morton and Will Southwood will join in on the action.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $12 at any Chat Cat locations or at Grocery Outlet in Medford. Tickets are $15 at the door.

"It's a great family event," Laura Hadley said. "It's a positive for the community and supports a worthy cause."

A cause that's not lost on the Harlem Comedy All-Stars.

"When all is said and done, we're trying to raise money for these kids because they need it this month," Harrison said. "These kids need help now. This is not something we can put off for next year."

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com

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