Fred 'Curly' Neal, Legendary Harlem Globetrotters, Dies at the Age of 77 at His Houston Home

The world just lost "one of the most recognizable faces in the planet" with the passing of Harlem Globetrotters' "Curly" at the age of 77. His memory is remembered by people close to him.

Fred Neal aka “Curly” of the Harlem Globetrotters has passed away at the age of 77. The message was relayed on his basketball team’s website.

According to the announcement, Neal, who was known for his shaved head, “charismatic smile” and “magical ball-handling,” died in his home in Houston. His cause of death was not revealed.

Fred "Curly" Neal at the SiriusXM Studio in February 2012. | Photo: Getty Images

Fred "Curly" Neal at the SiriusXM Studio in February 2012. | Photo: Getty Images

The North Carolina native played for the Globetrotters for 22 years in over 6,000 games in 97 countries. He made a huge impact in encouraging love for basketball wearing his number 22 jersey until his retirement in 1985.

“We weren’t just entertainers. I truly believe that we helped ease many of the tensions that pulled at the country.

Fred Neal showing off his skills at basketball entertainment during a 1985 game. | Photo: Getty Images

Fred Neal showing off his skills at basketball entertainment during a 1985 game. | Photo: Getty Images

Mourning his loss, Globetrotters General Manager Jeff Munn described him as “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.”

Meanwhile, fellow Globetrotter Dr. Curly “Boo” Johnson tweeted that the world “lost a true ambassador of the game of basketball" and "one of the most recognizable faces in the Planet."

Neal joined the Globetrotters straight out of college at Johnson C. Smith University. He received several offers from various teams including the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, St. Louis Hawks and the Baltimore Bullets but it was with the Globetrotters where he earned the spot in what he described as the “lucky five.”

Neal retired his jersey in 2008.  He was one of only five players who held that distinction. In 2016, he proudly wrote about his life as a Globetrotter in an article on USA Today. 

“We weren’t just entertainers. I truly believe that we helped ease many of the tensions that pulled at the country. It didn’t matter if you were black, white or whatever — laughing and enjoying our games made those barriers disappear.”

Fred Neal entertaining fans with his ball-handling during a McDonald's All-Star Celebrity Game in February 2009. | Photo: Getty Images

Fred Neal entertaining fans with his ball-handling during a McDonald's All-Star Celebrity Game in February 2009. | Photo: Getty Images

We extend our condolences to Neal’s friends and family. May he rest in peace as we hang on to the legacy he left behind.

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