Curly Neal signing a ball at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island
|No. 22 – Harlem Globetrotters|
May 19, 1942 |
Greensboro, North Carolina
|Listed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Listed weight||162 lb (73 kg)|
|High school||Greensboro-Dudley High School|
|College||Johnson C. Smith University|
Fred "Curly" Neal (born May 19, 1942) is an American basketball player best known for his career with the Harlem Globetrotters, instantly recognizable with his shaved head. Following in the footsteps of Marques Haynes, Neal became the Trotters' featured ballhandler, a key role in the team's exhibition act.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Neal attended Greensboro-Dudley High School, a perennial power in the state. He was shortly followed there by future Atlanta Hawks All-Star Lou Hudson, and NFL Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders. Unlike Hudson and Sanders, who attended the University of Minnesota, Neal went to Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. At Smith, he averaged 23.1 points a game and was named All-CIAA guard.
Neal played for 22 seasons (1963–85) with the Globetrotters, appearing in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries. His shaved head earned him his nickname, a reference to the Three Stooges' Curly Howard, and made him one of the most recognizable Globetrotters. In the 1970s, an animated version of Neal starred with various other Globetrotters in the Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon, Harlem Globetrotters, as well as its spinoff, The Super Globetrotters. The animated Globetrotters also made three appearances in The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
On January 11, 2008, the Globetrotters announced that Neal's number 22 would be retired on February 15 in a special ceremony at Madison Square Garden as part of "Curly Neal Weekend." Neal was just the fifth Globetrotter in the team's 82-year history to have his number retired, joining Wilt Chamberlain (13), Meadowlark Lemon (36), Marques Haynes (20) and Goose Tatum (50). On January 31, 2008, it was announced that Neal would be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
A mural commemorating Curly Neal's achievements both as a Globetrotter and during his time at Dudley High School is painted in the basketball gym of the Hayes-Taylor Memorial YMCA at 1101 East Market Street in Greensboro, NC. He currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina. He's been married to Rose Neal since 1976. He has 2 daughters, Rocurl and LaVerne Neal and 4 grandchildren.
- Globetrotters to retire No. 22 during Curly Neal Weekend, ESPN. Published January 11, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
- Harlem Globetrotters to Retire the Jersey of the Legendary Curly Neal, Reuters. Published January 9, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
- Fred "Curly" Neal Inducted Into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, CBS College Sports Network. Published May 16, 2008.