Marques Haynes, the first Harlem Globetrotter to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, died Friday at age 89. Haynes died of natural causes just after 4:30 a.m. in Plano, Tex., while surrounded by his friends and family, according to a statement posted on the show team’s Web site.
“The game of basketball has lost one of its most iconic figures. … He was the consummate Globetrotter,” team chief executive Kurt Schneider said in a statement.
Haynes played for the Globetrotters for 13 years over the course of two stints, first from 1947 to 1953 and then again from 1972 to 1979. He played more than 12,000 games and visited almost 100 countries with the team, the Globetrotters said.
Known as one of the greatest ballhandlers ever, Haynes’s popularity led him to become a regular on the Globetrotters’ “Popcorn Machine” television show from 1974 to 1975.
Haynes was more than a showman, though.
“Marques was a pioneer, helping pave the way for people of all races to have opportunities to play basketball and for the sport to explode on a global scale,” Schneider said. “His unique and groundbreaking style of play set the tone for modern basketball as we know it; anyone involved with basketball worldwide is indebted to Marques.”
Haynes gave a memorable speech at his Hall of Fame induction on Oct. 2, 1998.
“I’m reminded of some words that were in a song: ‘There’s a time to hold ’em, there’s a time to fold ’em, and then there’s the time to walk away,’ ” Haynes said, referring to “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. “My good friends, I’ve held ’em, I’ve folded ’em and, for the time being, it’s time for me to walk away.”
Of course, just before walking away, Haynes, then 73, showed off his dribbling skills for the lucky audience that day.
As word spread of Haynes’s death on Friday, the wider basketball community as well as fans took to social media to pay their respects.
Thunder joins OK b-ball family honoring Marques Haynes who died today. OK native, wonderful ambassador for the game! pic.twitter.com/dNi5kUOaow
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 22, 2015
We Mourn the passing of Globetrotter Marques Haynes, the greatest ball handler EVER in basketball!
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) May 22, 2015
— Guy Rawlings (@GuyRawlings) May 22, 2015
Sad to hear that the greatest basketball dribbler of all-time, Marques Haynes of the Harlem Globetrotters, died today. Great man. RIP.
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) May 22, 2015
Funeral services are currently being arranged.