Fred “Curly” Neal, whose trademark shaved head and dazzling dribbling skills delighted audiences of the Harlem Globetrotters, died on Thursday at the age of 77.
Neal died at his home near Houston, according to an announcement on the official webpage of the exhibition team, which brought basketball to a global audience with its entertaining blend of comedy and athletic skill.
"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," the Globetrotters said of Neal, who played for the Globetrotters from 1963-1985.
"One of the truly magical dribblers and shooters in basketball history, Neal fittingly played for 22 seasons in the red, white and blue, wearing No 22."
"We have lost one of the most genuine human beings the world has ever known," Globetrotters general manager Jeff Munn said.
"Curly’s basketball skill was unrivalled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide."