Former Harlem Globetrotters star Fred ‘Curly’ Neal dies aged 77 | US News

Former Harlem Globetrotter Fred “Curly” Neal has died at the age of 77.

Neal was a star player with the exhibition basketball team for 22 seasons before he left the team in 1985.

His bald head earned him the nickname “Curly” – a reference to the hairless Three Stooges member Curly Howard.

His cause of death was not immediately announced and there is no suggestion it is linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Globetrotters general manager Jeff Munn said the group had lost “one of the most genuine human beings the world has ever known”.

He added: “His basketball skill was unrivalled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide.

“He always made time for his many fans and inspired millions.”

PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 13: Harlem Globetrotter Curly neal entertains the fans during the McDonald's All-Star Celebrity Game on center court during NBA Jam Session Presented by Adidas on February 13, 2009 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE  (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Neal, pictured in 2009, played with the Globetrotters for 22 years

Former Globetrotter Curley “Boo” Johnson, who joined the team after Neal’s departure, said the world had “lost a true ambassador of the game of basketball and outside of Muhammad Ali one of the most recognisable faces on the planet”.

Neal’s number, 22, was retired in 2008 and his jersey was lifted into the rafters at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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He was honoured with a legends ring, given to those who have made major contributions to the development of the Globetrotters.

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Neal played basketball at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and was eventually inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

President Gerald Ford, enjoys a performance by Curly Neal and The Harlem Globetrotters, when they visited The White House, December 6, 1974. Pic: Everett/Shutterstock .
US President Gerald Ford pictured with Neal at the White House in 1974

Neal also enjoyed a television career, playing himself in a number of programmes and specials.

He appeared on The Love Boat, The White Shadow and the TV movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.

He also did voice work in episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, assisting the gang in solving mysteries, and in the Globetrotters’ own animated series.

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