Curly Neal, the Harlem Globetrotters star known for his basketball-spinning and dribbling skills-as well as his ever-present smile-died Thursday at his home near Houston at 77.
Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, said it was "hard to express how much joy Curly Neal brought to my life growing up". In a 2016 op-ed in USA Today, Neal said the team played an important role in advancing racial progress in the U.S. The exhibition team introduced the sport of basketball to millions of people around the world for the first time.
In 2008, Neal became the fifth Globetrotters player to have his jersey retired, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon and Goose Tatum.
Neal played in over 6,000 games in 97 countries from 1963-1985.
Neal was known for his bald head, smile and fancy ballhandling skills.
Neal and the Globetrotters also appeared in numerous TV commercials, episodes of "Scooby-Doo" and had their own cartoon series.
Curly was the team's elite ball handler for the Globetrotters after a successful career at Johnson C. Smith University. where he averaged 23 points a game.
Neal also was inducted into the Globetrotters' Legends ring in 1993 and continued to make appearances for them as an "Ambassador of Goodwill".