Curly Neal, Globetrotters' Dazzling Dribbler, Dies at 77

His ball-handling skills established him as one of the team’s foremost stars, alongside the likes of Meadowlark Lemon and Hubert “Geese” Ausbie.Credit...Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Fred “Curly” Neal, whose dribbling wizardry made him one of the most well-known members of the beloved Harlem Globetrotters traveling basketball team, died on Thursday at his home near Houston.

In one of the most highly anticipated elements of the Globetrotters’ routine, Neal would dribble all over the court, frequently sliding on his knees, never losing control of the ball no matter how close to the hardwood he had lowered himself.

“His basketball skill was unrivaled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide,” Jeff Munn, the Globetrotters’ general manager, said in a statement on Thursday.

Frederick Neal was born on May 19, 1942, in Greensboro, N.C., and played collegiately at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, where he averaged 23 points per game as a senior to earn All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association honors.

22 in 2008 in a ceremony at Madison Square Garden — an honor bestowed upon only four other players in the team’s history: Wilt Chamberlain (13), Reece “Goose” Tatum (50), Haynes (20) and Lemon (36).

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