Fred “Curly” Neal, a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, died in his home outside Houston on Thursday morning. He was 77.
He was a crowd favorite with his trademark shaved head, infectious smile and ability to dribble circles around would-be defenders. 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.”
Neal and the Globetrotters also appeared in numerous TV commercials, and episodes of “Scooby-Doo” and had their own cartoon series.
He played for the Globetrotters from 1963-85, appearing in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries for the exhibition team known for its combination of comedy and athleticism. He became one of five Globetrotters to have his jersey retired when his No. 22 was lifted to the rafters during a special ceremony at Madison Square Garden in 2008.
Neal was a star high school player in Greensboro, North Carolina, and led Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association title after averaging 23 points per game as a senior. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in a 2008 class that included North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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