R.I.P. Fred ''Curly'' Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters

The basketball legend and Gilligan's Island visitor was 77.

Image: The Everett Collection

The Harlem Globetrotters are far more than a basketball team — they are entertainment icons. What other sports squad can claim to have a made-for-TV movie on Gilligan's Island and a Saturday morning cartoon?

The Globetrotters, founded nearly a century ago, were a regular presence on the screen throughout the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s. Their Hollywood career began in 1951 with the feature film The Harlem Globetrotters. An appearance on What's My Line? followed.

Fred "Curly" Neal joined the team in 1963. The North Carolina native (he was born and raised in Greensboro, not far from the fictional Mayberry) helped lead the team into superstardom with his flashy point guard skills and big smile.

Hanna-Barbera launched its Harlem Globetrotters cartoon in 1970, as the team became animated relatives of Fred Flintstone, the Super Friends and Yogi Bear. Throughout the Seventies, the team dazzled children on the small screen. The awesomely titled The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine (1974) cast the athletes as variety show hosts. Hanna-Barbera crafted a second cartoon series, The Super Globetrotters, in 1979. That same year, Bally released a Harlem Globetrotters on Tour pinball machine to arcades. Who better to wildly bounce around a ball?

Neal, number 22 — a uniform that is now retired by the team — was a key figure through all this. His nickname was taken from Curly of The Three Stooges, and Neal earned the monicker with his comedic skills.

Memorably, he met the castaways in the 1981 film The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, the third reunion movie of the beloved sitcom.

Only five Globetrotters had their numbers retired. Neal passed away this week at the age of 77, according to TMZ.

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gdogs 4 days ago
The Globetrotters were so awesome! Wish I had the original videos.
DiamondGold 5 days ago
I thought metv did a spring schedule ten a summer schedule
Diamonds64 6 days ago
Aw was sad to hear about this. He was my favorite out of all the Globetrotters.
Barry22 7 days ago
RIP, loved the Globetrotters. Watched them all the time on TV in the 60's and 70's. Even had the album from their first cartoon series. (actually not bad). Met Curly Neal in the late 80's in Orlando at an event as he was working PR for the Orlando Magic.
Utzaake 7 days ago
Back in the 1970s when almost everyone wore their hair big and/or long, Curly Neal was one of the exceedingly few entertainers who was completely bald. Others included Telly Savalas, NBA player Donald "Slick" Watts who wore a headband and reminded one of the planet Saturn and MLB pitcher Dave Heaverlo. The look has been commonplace since the mid-1980s.
harlow1313 8 days ago
As young boys in the sixties, we sometimes debated whether or not The Globetrotters were better than NBA teams. Sadly, being a somewhat dim lad, I think I sided with The Globetrotters.
SeenEnough harlow1313 7 days ago
Oh cmon that clown show could never compete in the NBA. They were just showoffs who couldn't make an NBA team. They might win 10 or 12 games tops. Not even close to being competetive. What a dork!
Barry22 harlow1313 1 day ago
In 1948 they defeated the (then) Minnesota Lakers, my Dad was at that game.
harlow1313 Barry22 13 hours ago
Thanks for the information. I found and read an article about the game.
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