Curly Neal

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Curly Neal
Globe trotting 080817-F-0298S-003.jpg
Neal in 2008
Personal information
Born(1942-05-19)May 19, 1942
Greensboro, North Carolina
DiedMarch 26, 2020(2020-03-26) (aged 77)
Houston, Texas
Listed height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Listed weight162 lb (73 kg)
Career information
High schoolDudley
(Greensboro, North Carolina)
CollegeJohnson C. Smith (1959–1963)
Playing career1963–1985
PositionPoint guard
Career history
1963–1985Harlem Globetrotters

Frederick "Curly" Neal (May 19, 1942 – March 26, 2020) was an American basketball player who played with the Harlem Globetrotters, instantly recognizable with his shaved bald head. Following in the footsteps of Marques Haynes, Neal became the Trotters' featured ballhandler, a key role in the team's exhibition act.

Early life[edit]

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Neal attended James B. Dudley High School and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina from 1959 to 1963. At Smith, he averaged 23.1 points a game and was named All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) guard.[1]


Neal played for 22 seasons (from 1963 to 1985) 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. Neal himself appeared with Meadowlark Lemon, Marques Haynes, and his other fellow Globetrotters in a live-action Saturday morning TV show, The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine, in 1974–75, which also featured Rodney Allen Rippy and Avery Schreiber.[2] Neal also appeared in The White Shadow, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, and The Love Boat.[3]

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."[4] 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).[5] On January 31, 2008, it was announced that Neal would be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.[6]

He was also granted the Harlem Globetrotters' prestigious "Legends" ring, which is presented to those who make major humanitarian contributions and work for the Harlem Globetrotters organization.[7]

Personal life and death[edit]

A mural commemorating Neal's achievements both as a Globetrotter and his time playing for Dudley High School is painted in the basketball gym of the Hayes-Taylor Memorial YMCA at 1101 East Market Street in Greensboro. He had two daughters, Rocurl (Raquel) and Laverne Neal, and six grandchildren, David, Dante, Jayden, Brandon, Deja, and Hailey. Neal lived in Houston with his fiancée Linda Ware until his death.[8]

On March 26, 2020, Neal died at his home outside Houston at the age of 77.[3][7][9]


  1. ^ White, Herbert L. (March 26, 2020). "Former JCSU and Globetrotters great Curly Neal dies at 77". The Charlotte Post. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  2. ^ Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine (Opening & Closing), YouTube.
  3. ^ a b Madani, Doha (March 26, 2020). "Harlem Globetrotters legend Fred 'Curly' Neal dies at 77". NBC News. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  4. ^ Globetrotters to retire No. 22 during Curly Neal Weekend, ESPN. Published January 11, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
  5. ^ Harlem Globetrotters to Retire the Jersey of the Legendary Curly Neal, Reuters. Published January 9, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
  6. ^ Fred "Curly" Neal Inducted Into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, CBS College Sports Network. Published May 16, 2008.
  7. ^ a b "Harlem Globetrotters legend Curly Neal passes away at 77". March 26, 2020. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  8. ^ Gaither, Steven J. (March 26, 2020). "Harlem Globetrotter legend Fred "Curly" Neal passes away". Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  9. ^ Harlem Globetrotter legend Fred “Curly” Neal passes away, Steven J. Gaither, 26 March 2020

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