The world-famous Harlem Globetrotters announced today their plans to celebrate the life and career of Fred “Curly” Neal — the Globetrotter icon known worldwide for his trademark shaved head and charismatic smile. Neal, who passed away on March 26 and was laid to rest in Houston on April 10th, would have turned 78 years old on May 19th, the day the Globetrotters ask fans to acknowledge their memories of the star via social media.
“Curly was one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Globetrotter uniform, and we are asking fans to pay tribute to him via social media on his birthday,” said Globetrotters General Manager Jeff Munn. “His warm heart and huge smile brought joy to millions of families worldwide. At some point in the future we will work with Curly’s family to have a celebration of life in his hometown of Greensboro, N.C.”
Fans from around the world are asked to post their favorite Curly memory and spin a ball on their finger on their own social media platforms on May 19th. The post should include hashtags #curlyneal and #harlemglobetrotters
Between 1963 and 1985 – before the internet and cable television really existed – it was Curly Neal and the Harlem Globetrotters who first introduced the sport of basketball to millions of people around the world for the first time. It was Curly’s magical ball-handling, shooting, charismatic smile and iconic bald head, in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries, that made them start to play and fall in love with the game. One of the truly magical dribblers and shooters in basketball history, Neal fittingly played for 22 seasons in the red, white and blue, wearing jersey number 22.
On Feb. 15, 2008, Neal became just the fifth Globetrotter in the team’s illustrious history to have his jersey number retired, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon and Goose Tatum. Neal’s famous number 22 was lifted to the rafters during a special ceremony at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Since then, there have been a total of eight numbers retired.
Neal was part of one of the most extraordinary eras in the team’s history, appearing on several popular television programs and specials, including “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” “CBS Sports Spectacular,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine,” “The Love Boat,” “The White Shadow” and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.” He also appeared in numerous national TV commercials and was immortalized in animation on “The Harlem Globetrotters” cartoon series and on episodes of “Scooby Doo.”
After an outstanding career at James B. Dudley High School in his hometown of Greensboro, N.C., Neal starred at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., where he averaged over 23 points per game and led his team to the CIAA title his senior year. He was inducted into the 2008 class of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, along with the renowned Roy Williams, coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Neal was also a recipient of the Harlem Globetrotters’ prestigious “Legends” ring, presented to those who have made a major contribution to the success and the development of the Globetrotters organization. Each honoree exemplifies the Harlem Globetrotters’ humanitarian contributions and it’s the second highest honor a former player can receive outside of jersey retirement.
The Harlem Globetrotters® are legendary worldwide, synonymous with one-of-a-kind family entertainment and great basketball skills for the past 93 years. Throughout their history, the Original Harlem Globetrotters have showcased their iconic talents in 124 countries and territories on six continents, often breaking down cultural and societal barriers while providing fans with their first-ever basketball experience. Proud inductees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Globetrotters have entertained hundreds of millions of fans – among them popes, kings, queens, and presidents – over nine thrilling decades. The Ambassadors of Goodwill are sponsored by Baden Sports, the Official Basketball, Champion, the Official Uniform & Apparel provider, Tum-e Yummies, the Official Fruit Flavored Drink, Carnival Cruise Line, Inc., and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Harlem Globetrotters International, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Herschend Enterprises, the largest family-owned themed entertainment company in the U.S. For the latest news and information about the Harlem Globetrotters, visit the Globetrotters’ official Web site: www.harlemglobetrotters.com and follow them on Twitter @Globies
SOURCE Harlem Globetrotters