Harlem Globetrotters icon Fred ‘Curly’ Neal dies at 77

Tanya Simon
March 27, 2020

Harlem Globetrotters legend Fred "Curly" Neal died at 77 years old on Thursday, The Undefeated reported.

'We have lost one of the most genuine human beings the world has ever known, ' Globetrotters general manager Jeff Munn said in a statement on Twitter.

When the Globetrotters retired Neal's No. 22, he joined Wilt Chamberlain (13), Meadowlark Lemon (36), Marques Haynes (20) and Goose Tatum (50). Neal toured with the Globetrotters from 1963 to 1985 and appeared in over 6,000 games and more than 95 countries. "His basketball skill was unrivaled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide".

Neal wrote a perspective piece for USA Today in 2016 about what it meant to him to play for the Globetrotters, who broke down racial barriers as one of the first all-black basketball teams in the 1920s.

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Neal was known for his bald head, smile and fancy ballhandling skills. He was a key player during the Globetrotters" most popular era in the "70s and '80s, appearing on TV shows and specials like "The Ed Sullivan Show", "Love Boat" and "Gilligan's Island".

A fan favorite, Neal's likeness was featured in multiple children's cartoons including "Harlem Globetrotters", "The Super Globetrotters" and "The New Scooby-Doo Movies".

Curly was the team's elite ball handler for the Globetrotters after a successful career at Johnson C. Smith University. where he averaged 23 points a game.

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