Fans today remembered basketball star George “Meadowlark” Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters, who died Sunday at 83 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Lemon, dubbed the “Clown Prince of Basketball,” was famous for his trademark hook shot as well as his on-court comedy at the height of the Globetrotters’ popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.

He was considered by many to be a role model for black youth because of his good-humored pursuit of excellence. He was a vocal supporter of voluntary prayer in school.

The Globetrotters regularly appeared on TV on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other variety shows in those days, and Lemon’s cartoon likeness later was featured on the animated “Scooby-Doo.”

Mannie Jackson, a former owner of the Globetrotters, credited Lemon with transforming the game of basketball as well as changing  “attitudes about race” around the world, telling USA Today:

He believed that if you accepted him first on the basis of his many talents and his integrity and if you could make someone laugh, he would get you to listen, to believe and to change. He changed people’s attitudes about race. He changed foreigners’ attitudes about America and along the way, he made millions love the game of basketball.

At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Lemon, who grew up poor in Wilmington, N.C., realized a boyhood ambition by playing for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1954 to 1978. According to his website, Lemon played more than 16,000 games in his career. He was known for rarely missing a game.

In 2003, Lemon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

After retiring, he became an ordained Christian minister and, in 1994, established Meadowlark Lemon Ministries with his wife to run basketball camps and visit juvenile detention facilities.

“I feel if I can touch a kid in youth prison, he won’t go to the adult prison,” the Associated Press quoted Lemon as saying in 2003.

The cause of death has not been reported.

Upon hearing the news of his passing, fans took to Twitter to celebrate Lemon’s accomplishments, both on the court and off.

This report was updated to include more tweets.