He admittedly “didn’t know something about being funny” when he joined the comedic basketball team, but he have become one of its largest stars.
Red “Curly” Neal, whose dribbling wizardry made him one of the maximum well-known members of the liked Harlem Globetrotters traveling basketball crew, died on Thursday at his domestic near Houston. He become seventy seven.
The team introduced the demise however gave no different information.
Nicknamed “Curly” upon becoming a member of the Globetrotters in a funny nod to his shaved head, Neal performed in greater than 6,000 exhibition games for the Globetrotters from 1963 to 1985, generally towards the Washington Generals, their hapless foils.
In one of the most distinctly anticipated elements of the Globetrotters’ recurring, Neal could dribble everywhere in the courtroom, regularly sliding on his knees, never losing manage of the ball regardless of how near the hardwood he had lowered himself. Then he would bounce the ball thru a flailing defender’s legs close to the unfastened-throw line and dribble in for an uncontested layup to finish off the move.
“Oh my gosh, he revolutionized ball handling,” Nancy Lieberman, who performed for the Generals towards the Globetrotters in 1988, stated in a phone interview. “Everything you spot Kyrie Irving doing and Steph Curry doing now, all of it started with the Trotters. The Trotters made dribbling a show.”
Neal’s trickery established him as one of the team’s predominant stars, along the likes of Meadowlark Lemon and Hubert “Geese” Ausbie, and helped the Globetrotters’ visiting show come to be a everyday function of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” in an technology when the National Basketball Association did no longer have a robust country wide tv presence as it does now.
At the peak of the Globetrotters’ reputation in the 1970s, with Neal’s preferrred ball-managing abilties and long-distance shooting as top sights, they inspired more than one animated TV series, which include “Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters” in 1972.
They additionally performed a number of their basketball tricks on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” observed as usually with the aid of the traces of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” their trademark song. And they performed themselves on television shows like “The White Shadow” and “Love Boat” and in a made-for-television “Gilligan’s Island” movie.
“His basketball talent became unmatched by means of maximum, and his heat heart and large smile delivered pleasure to families worldwide,” Jeff Munn, the Globetrotters’ popular manager, said in a announcement on Thursday. “He constantly made time for his many fans and stimulated hundreds of thousands.”
Frederick Neal changed into born on May 19, 1942, in Greensboro, N.C., and played collegiately at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, in which he averaged 23 factors according to sport as a senior to earn All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association honors. Future N.B.A. Stars together with Lou Hudson and Al Attles were high faculty and college contemporaries, however Neal became now not drafted via an N.B.A. Crew and struggled to land a job within the execs.
But a proposal soon materialized with the Globetrotters, and Neal in the end succeeded Marques Haynes, a 1992 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, as the Globetrotters’ ball-dealing with sensation.
Neal and Haynes “taught me a way to dribble,” Isiah Thomas, the former All-Star protect who led the Detroit Pistons to again-to-back N.B.A. Championships in 1989 and 1990, stated on Thursday on Twitter.
“I become blessed to be near with Curly and Marques Haynes,” Lieberman said. “Curly discovered from Marques and took it to an entire exclusive stage.”
The Globetrotters retired Neal’s No. 22 in 2008 in a rite at Madison Square Garden — an honor bestowed upon handiest 4 other gamers inside the crew’s history: Wilt Chamberlain (thirteen), Reece “Goose” Tatum (50), Haynes (20) and Lemon (36). He continued to function a Globetrotters ambassador lengthy after he stopped gambling.
Neal, though, recalled very humble beginnings to his Globetrotters profession in his 1983 interview with The Times, announcing: “I got a questionnaire letter, as a free agent. I could need to pay my way to camp. The Globetrotters despatched me a aircraft price tag and gave me room and board.”
Another venture, he said, become mastering how to entertain enthusiasts as a part of a touring basketball troupe famend for throwing buckets of confetti — or water — on fanatics sitting courtside.
Information on his survivors changed into not at once available.
In an interview with bullz-eye.Com in 2008, Neal revealed that he had certainly began shaving his head at age 12 — lengthy earlier than he were given his nickname.
“The kids within the neighborhood, we decided to do something mischievous,” Neal said. “My mother didn’t find it irresistible in the beginning. She stated, ‘What befell to you?’ And I said, ‘I went to sleep in the barber’s chair.’”
Neal stuck with that appearance all through his high school and college career. He said it turned into Bobby Milton, the Globetrotters’ coach whilst Neal arrived, who determined, “We’re going to name you Curly.”