Harlem Globetrotters legend ‘Curly’ Neal, 77, dies


Fred “Curly” Neal, the face of the Harlem Globetrotters for 22 years, died Thursday morning in Houston at the age of 77, the team announced on Twitter.

Neal, with his slick ballhandling skills, recognizable shaved head and playful banter, in 2008 became just the fifth Globetrotters player to have his jersey retired, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon and Goose Tatum.

His jersey was raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden during a special ceremony.

“We have lost one of the most genuine human beings the world has ever known,” Globetrotters general manager Jeff Munn said in a statement. “Curly’s basketball skill was unrivaled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide.”

Neal played in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries for the barnstorming Globetrotters from 1963 to 1985.

He joined the Globetrotters after averaging more than 23 points per game during his senior year while leading Johnson C. Smith University to the CIAA title.

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