The 2022 Spread Game Tour was dedicated to Globetrotters Legend Fred “Curly” Neal. Curly played 22 seasons for the Globetrotters, wearing #22 for all those years. Curly passed away in March, 2020, just days after the team completed its most recent US Tour.
One of the truly magical dribblers and shooters in basketball history, Curly Neal captured the imagination of fans all over the world, playing in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries as a key member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Number 22 fittingly played for 22 seasons in the red, white and blue, from 1963 to 1985.
Still sporting the trademark shaved head, wide smile and infectious laugh that made him a pop culture icon for decades, on Feb. 15, 2008, Curly 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. Curly's famous number 22 was lifted to the rafters during a special ceremony at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Curly 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 Greensboro, N.C., Curly moved on to 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. Curly continues to make appearances for the Globetrotters as an "Ambassador of Goodwill."TM
Curly is 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. A special advisory board selects honorees who have excelled on and off the court in athletic ability, showmanship, crowd appeal and humanitarian contributions. Curly was inducted into the Globetrotters' "Legends" ring on June 25, 1993. Neal passed away on March 26, 2020 in his home outside of Houston at the age of 77.