Globetrotter legend Meadowlark Lemon goes one-on-one with theGrio

theGRIO Q&A - TheGrio speaks with three-time basketball Hall of Fame inductee and evangelist about the motivation behind his upcoming book, 'Trust Your Next Shot'...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

The name Meadowlark Lemon is synonymous with the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters.

theGrio spoke with the three-time inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and evangelist about the contribution of the Harlem Globetrotters and the motivation behind his upcoming book, Trust Your Next Shot.

Meadowlark Lemon and other Globetrotter legends will share their experience in a Biography on CNBC program airing Wednesday, Sept. 8.

What was the Harlem Globetrotters’ biggest influence on or contribution to American culture?

Meadlowlark Lemon: The things no one knew about — we opened up doors that were closed that nobody saw. We went places that Americans couldn’t go — we were in Russia during the Cold War and I met Nikita Khrushev. He said something that didn’t make sense to me then — he said we will destroy you from the inside. Some of the things going on today are trying to destroy us from the inside. This won’t happen because we have God. I am the apple of His eye. I pray for our president and his family all the way down to the smallest person in politics in the smallest city in the country.

What is your most vivid memory of being a Harlem Globetrotter?

Two things — one is the people you have with you — the people and players. Whether you liked them or not, they are family. And two – make people laugh.

When did you become an evangelist?

In 1983 – I had no idea what I was doing or getting into, but each month it got better simply because I was doing something I began with the Globetrotters — helping people. We were able to go into homes where people were not allowed. Even today at the gym and at fundraisers people thank me.

Last year on a plane to help a fellow athlete raise money for his foundation, a young man approached with tears in his eyes. He said thank you for the Goodwill. We were known as the Ambassadors of Goodwill. We went to places where people were fighting wars. And the wars would subside as both sides watched us play.

We went to the Middle East and South America where they were having these disagreements, we were almost like the Dream Team with Jordan, Barkley, Magic Johnson — the players who played against them wanted their autograph. We were in those places before these guys came along.

I saw Magic Johnson at an event a few months ago and he said I am “the real magic man”. It’s the kind of respect we have for each other. Patrick Ewing says I’m his idol. They know we helped to open the doors for them. When we came along there were only a handful of blacks in the NBA. No one was making money — the base salary was $2,000, then Wilt [Chamberlain] started making $75,000. Then Bill Russell came along.

Many adults struggle to identify their passion. How did you discover your passion to become a Globetrotter at age 11?

It’s what I saw that the other kids didn’t see. Years later a man named Michael Jordan saw the same thing on the other side of town [Wilmington, North Carolina]. He didn’t make the basketball team the first time and it started a fire within him. If someone said something against him, it added another log to the fire.

Basically it’s the same as what happened to me. I saw something I needed and I wanted. The passion is still there for basketball after all these years. Passion is still there for NBA basketball; passion is still there for comedy basketball.

Basketball didn’t come naturally to you – how did you develop your skills?

It became natural after I learned how to play. I never played basketball in the beginning, it started with baseball and football. After I got hit a few times with baseball, I gave it up. Basketball became a passion and I knew what I wanted to do.

The comedy is a different thing. A lot of people don’t understand timing. When I see Bill Cosby and Bob Hope, both have perfect timing. I watch the Jerry Lewis telethon and the timing that he still has. He’s gotten older but nothing has changed. Don’t get old, get older. Today I was in the gym when it opened at 5:30am. I’m keeping my body ready for the big dance whenever it comes.

What inspired you to write your new book, due in October, Trust Your Next Shot – A Guide to a Life of Joy?

The passion I still have drove the book. We sometimes get into things and lose what we had in the beginning. So many people who go to work everyday hate their job. I never hated my job no mater what happened. If I was ill, it didn’t matter – I still went out and worked.

Husbands, wives lose passion for each other after awhile. I haven’t lost that passion for my wife, I still love her very much. We have so many things going on in the world today and so many not good, you can get lost. But those who have kept a desire to, get better — even after you’ve done everything you could possibly do, you still have something left.

I think all of us have a shot — it doesn’t necessarily mean basketball or a sport. We can’t sit there and say it won’t work. I’ve seen many things work people said couldn’t.

It’s what’s within, and many people don’t have the spirit that directs them to each other. I’ve been fortunate and most athletes are fortunate to play a game for money that they would have played for nothing. You can go to any Y [YMCA/YWCA] in America today and you will find grown men during their lunch period playing basketball for nothing. They have a passion or desire for what they grew up doing.

I look at LeBron James — he has a desire to win. He wants to win so badly he moved cross-country. Some people say that’s not right, or it’s wrong. He played for Cleveland for seven years. I don’t know whether his move is right or wrong, but LeBron and the team got something out of that.

The book is about giving back. We’ve been given so much. Think of all the athletes today who probably would be doing something different instead of making millions, but there was something driving them from within.

What advice can you give to the youth today who may come from challenged environments — how can they succeed?

Number one – seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and He says all of these things will be added to you. Number two – trust the shot, trust the next shot. Kids should read the book.

Nobody was thrown under the bus. People who have stolen from me — there have been many — I have forgiven them for everything they’ve done. And those who stole from me couldn’t steal anymore, because what they thought they stole, I gave to them. If you can do this all things are possible — not just some things — I believe that.

I was speaking to a man today and he says he couldn’t do that. We should forgive and keep going, because if we don’t it brings on strife and strife will eat you up from the inside.

God created everything, whatever you call him, find out who He really is. He has never failed me, since 1982 He has not failed.

What’s significant about 1982?

That’s when I became a born-again Christian. Some things have happened in between but He didn’t fail me. This is what young people need to know. God will be there for you. The book is not political — I know nothing about politics. One thing I do know is that God is for us and with us. Trust your next best shot whatever it is. If you’re going into business and have a good feeling go for it, but trust your next shot.

You’ve accomplished so much, what are you most proud of?

I’ve done just about everything I’ve wanted to do in my life. The technology we have today — I want to make the world laugh with the technology out there. It’s possible. Once this happens, there will be no more wars when people start loving each other again.