Fred "Curly" Neal, the dribbling wizard who has entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for three decades, has died. He was 77.
The globetrotters said Neal died Thursday morning in his home outside of Houston.
"We lost one of the most genuine people the world has ever known," Jeff Munn, general manager of Globetrotters, said in a statement on Twitter. "Curly's basketball skills were second to none, and his warm heart and big smile brought joy to families around the world."
Neal played for the Globetrotters from 1963 to 1985 and appeared in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries for the exhibition team, which is known for its combination of comedy and sportiness. He became one of five globetrotters whose jersey retired when his No. 22 was lifted on the rafters during a special ceremony in Madison Square Garden in 2008.
Neal was a crowd favorite with his trademarked shaved head, infectious smile, and ability to dribble circles around potential defenders. He was a key player during the most popular era of globetrotters in the '70s and' 80s, and appeared on TV shows and specials such as "The Ed Sullivan Show", "Love Boat" and "Gilligan & # 39; s Island".
Neal and the globetrotters also appeared in numerous television commercials, episodes of "Scooby-Doo" and had their own cartoon series.
“Difficult to express how much joy Curly Neal brought to my adult life. RIP became a legend, ”tweeted Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors coach.
Neal was a star high school player in Greensboro, North Carolina, and led Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte to the title of Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association after averaging 23 points per game as a senior. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 in a class that included North Carolina's coach, Roy Williams.
Neal was also inducted into the Globetrotters & # 39; Legends ring in 1993 and continued to act as her "Goodwill Ambassador".
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