The basketball community has lost a legend. It was announced that Harlem Globetrotters legend Fred "Curly" Neal has died at the age of 77. He was one of the most recognizable players as he competed in over 6,000 in his 22 years with the Globetrotters. Neal's No. 22 jersey was retired in 2008 at Madison Square Garden and he's only one of five Globetrotters to receive the honor. Fellow Globetrotters legend Dr. Curley "Boo" Johnson confirmed the news on Twitter.
FRED “CURLY” NEAL Last night the World lost a true ambassador of the game of basketball and outside of Muhammad Ali one of the most recognizable faces on the Planet! Rest In Peace my Brother.... #harlemglobetrotters pic.twitter.com/7XsCfyDGJZ— Dr. Curley Boo Johnson (@BooCurley) March 26, 2020
Once Johnson announced the news, fans began to pay tribute to Neal. One fan on Twitter wrote: "Got to meet him once at a golf tournament, truly one of the nicest individuals I’ve met. Great ambassador for the game, he’ll be missed."
Back in 2008, Neal talked about how he joined the Globetrotters. He played college basketball at Johnson C. Smith University where he averaged 23.1 points per game and he became a member of the Globetrotters right after college.
"I was 21 years old when I joined the Globetrotters," Neal said to bullz-eye.com. "I had five offers, you know: the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, St. Louis Hawks, Baltimore Bullets and the Globetrotters. Abe Saperstein sent me a nice letter – red, white and blue stationary – and offered me to come to Chicago, Illinois, at Depaw University, and try out amongst 125 guys for his basketball team. They chose five players, and I happened to be in that lucky five.
"The all time greats! another fan wrote. Boo, you look like Billy Dee Williams back then. Do you remember how great Curly was on the half court hook shot.....unbelievable!"0comments
Neal was featured in several television shows including Gilligan's Island and Scooby-Doo. He was known for his ball-handling skills as well as his big personality. He joined the Globetrotters in 1963 and he retired in 1985. In January 2008, Neal was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
The Harlem Globetrotters were founded in 1926 and they perform 450 live events per year worldwide.