Harlem Globetrotters legend Fred 'Curly' Neal dies aged 77

Carrie Guzman
March 27, 2020

Fred "Curly" Neal, the Harlem Globetrotters star who played more than 6,000 games and 22 seasons, has died at 77. He passed on Thursday at his home near Houston at age 77, the Globetrotters announced. The team remembers him as "one of the truly magical dribblers and shooters in basketball history".

Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, said it was "hard to express how much joy Curly Neal brought to my life growing up".

Neal was the fifth person at the time to receive that honor, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon and Goose Tatum.

Neal suited up with the Globetrotters during the height of their popularity from 1963-85, playing in 97 different countries. Neal was a member of the popular Harlem Globetrotters troupe and one of its most recognizable members.

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One of the first all-black teams in the 1920s, the Globetrotters helped break down social barriers, which was one reason Neal was so proud to be a part of the organization.

Nicknamed "Curly" after the similarly head-shaven member of the Three Stooges, the limber-limbed Neal served as the team's point guard, ball-handling magician, long-distance-shooting extraordinaire and face of the franchise for more than two decades.

Neal was also a frequent participant in the infamous "water bucket" prank, in which he washed out a teammate with a cup of water, only to be chased around the court by the "angry" player, culminating in a confetti shower on someone in the audience. "We weren't just entertainers". That same year, he was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

"The basketball community has lost a Legend", NBA Alumni said.

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