Fred “Curly” Neal Of Harlem Globetrotter Fame Dies At 77

The sports world is mourning the loss of Fred Curly Neal
The sports world is mourning the loss of Fred Curly Neal / Greensboro Daily Photo

  • Earlier this week, Fred “Curly” Neal passed away
  • As a member of the celebrated Harlem Globetrotters, he stood out even among his peers for bringing skill and unparalleled charisma to the court
  • Neal was just one of five athletes whose number is retired


On March 26, the sports world learned that Fred “Curly” Neal, Harlem Globetrotter legend, passed away. He was 77 years of age. He passed away in Houston, Texas decades after spending 22 seasons with the Globetrotters. News of his death comes from TMZ Sports. Neal gained fame for being successful on the court and charismatic off of it.

Curly Neal spent over 6,000 games awing fans with impressive moves and copious amounts of good humor. His charisma made Neal one of the most beloved members of the team, tied only with Meadowlark Lemon. He leaves behind his fiance Linda Ware, two daughters, and six grandchildren.


Success came naturally to Fred “Curly” Neal

Curly Neal received specific honors, proving himself exceptional even in an already memorable team
Curly Neal received specific honors, proving himself exceptional even in an already memorable team / YouTube

Neal showed his prowess early on. He was born on May 19, 1942 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Already, the community news outlet is mourning the loss of a native star. He showed his skill while playing for the state at the college level. While at Johnson C. Smith University, located in Charlotte, Neal averaged 23.1 points a game. Soon, he was part of the All-CIAA guard.

RELATED: City Of Wilmington Names Bridge After Late Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon


Then, his fame expanded exponentially. From 1963 to 1985, Neal played for the Globetrotters. In that time, he played over 6,000 games. Soon, much of the world knew his name – and characteristic shaved head, which earned him the nickname Curly as a reference to The Three Stooges. On the historic occasion that Neal’s number was to be retired, the team marked the days surrounding the event as “Curly Neal Weekend.” Today, he is immortalized back home as part of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

The sports world and beyond mourns the loss of Curly Neal

The Harlem Globetrotters became famous the world over. Already, the sports world is mourning the loss of a beloved family member who kept the community lively for decades. But the Globetrotters touched upon other areas of life as well. And Curly Neal was there for much of it. He can be seen in just about all the team’s TV specials, from The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island to even their “appearance” on Scooby-Doo.

Curly Neal stood out even among legends. In 2008, his  #22 jersey retired a while after him; only five players have had their jersey numbers retire. Neal cultivated rich friendships that are evident in the way those who remain mourn him. Curley “Boo” Johnson took to Twitter to write, “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!” He added, “Rest In Peace my Brother…. ”

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