Fred "Curly" Neal - the Harlem Globetrotters star known for his trademark shaved head and charismatic smile - died at his home outside Houston on Thursday. Neal was the team's slick ballhandler, playing more than 6,000 games for the Globetrotters, TMZ reports.
Fred "Curly" Neal, the dribbling wizard who entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for parts of three decades, has died. His charisma made Neal one of the most beloved members of the team, tied only with Meadowlark Lemon.
Neal was born and raised in Greensboro, N.C. He played college ball at Johnson C. Smith, a CIAA school in Charlotte where he averaged 23.1 points per game. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in a 2008 class that included North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
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The Globetrotters retired Neal's #22 jersey at a February 2008 ceremony at New York's Madison Square Garden, becoming just the fifth Globetrotter to have their numbers retired.
He stayed involved with the Globetrotters after retiring, continuing to make public and promotional appearances for the team. "His basketball skill was unrivaled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide".