For those of us who came of age during the 1970’s, Fred “Curly” Neal was a hero and a role model, even if we couldn’t spin a basketball on our finger like he did. On January 11, ESPN.com reported that on February 15 during “Curly Neal Weekend,” the Globetrotters will retire No. 22, the jersey number that Neal made famous during his 22 seasons with the team. Other events that weekend include games at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on February 16 and 18 and at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. on February 17.
As the 5th Globetrotter to have his number retired, Curly Neal joins Meadowlark Lemon and Wilt Chamberlain in a very exclusive club.
Curly Neal Weekend: “The Purity of the Sport”
During the times my classmates and I watched the Globetrotters on television, we all had our favorite players, especially the wildly funny Meadowlark Lemon, but there was something special about the way that Curly Neal played; more often than not, we tuned in to watch Curly and his moves.
Kurt Schneider, CEO of the Globetrotters, seemed to agree to with how we felt as children. “Curly Neal represents the purity of sport and everything that is great about the Globetrotters and the game of basketball,” Schneider said in a statement. “He helped build this organization into a worldwide phenomenon, and we are proud to bestow this honor upon him. He truly personifies wholesome family entertainment and elicits fond memories for millions of fans around the world.”
Curly Neal Weekend: “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine”
The 1970’s were a Golden Age for Saturday Morning television, so much so that the Big Three Networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) used to have special previews the Friday night before all the new cartoons were scheduled to begin. Live-action shows also were incredibly common during the 1970’s as well, many featuring popular acts such as the Hudson Brothers or the late Charles Nelson Reilly dressed up as a demented children’s host on “Uncle Croc’s Block”.
One of my favorites, though, was “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine,” which featured Globetrotters such as Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon in comedy sketches and, of course, demonstrating their incredible skills with the basketball.
Curly Neal Weekend: Getting Animated
Following the lead of the Beatles, the Osmonds and the Jackson 5, the Harlem Globetrotters got animated in a Saturday morning show where Curly Neal and the guys had a series of adventures. Near the end of the decade, the Globetrotters came back to Saturday morning as “The Super-Globetrotters.” For this show, Curly Neal was drawn as a superhero called “Sphere Man.”
Curly Neal Weekend: Saying Thanks
We Baby Boomers rarely get the chance to say thanks to our childhood heroes, so I’m happy to see Fred “Curly” Neal getting the honor and adoration that he so richly deserves.
Source:ESPN.com, “Globetrotters to retire No. 22 during Curly Neal Weekend”