Globetrotters legend Fred 'Curly' Neal dies at 77

Curly Neal

Curly Neal

Curly Neal, the Harlem Globetrotters star known for his basketball-spinning and dribbling skills-as well as his ever-present smile-died Thursday at his home near Houston at 77.

Neal played in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries for the barnstorming Globetrotters from 1963 to 1985.

His ball-handling displays, shooting touch and infectious smile were mainstays at Globetrotters games as they entertained fans around the world in basketball exhibitions.

Neal made it look easy to literally dribble circles around an opposing team.

Neal wrote a perspective piece for USA Today in 2016 about what it meant to him to play for the Globetrotters, who broke down racial barriers as one of the first all-black basketball teams in the 1920s. "We weren't just entertainers".

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Neal was born in Greensboro, N.C., and he graduated from Dudley High School before attending Johnson C. Smith, where he averaged 23 points per game.

Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, said it was "hard to express how much joy Curly Neal brought to my life growing up". Neal was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Our thoughts go out to the Globetrotters family and the entire basketball world during these most hard of times.

When the Globetrotters retired Neal's No. 22, he joined Wilt Chamberlain (13), Meadowlark Lemon (36), Marques Haynes (20) and Goose Tatum (50).

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