DETROIT (WXYZ) — Earl Cureton, a former Detroit Pistons player, team community ambassador, and Detroit native passed away unexpectedly this morning, the team announced. He was 66 years old.
Cureton played in the NBA for 12 seasons, including three seasons with the Pistons (1983-86), where he averaged 5.9 points in 234 games. He was drafted 58th overall in the 1979 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and also had stints with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors. After his playing career concluded in 1997, he had coaching stops in the NBA, the United States Basketball League and the Continental Basketball Association.
Known as "The Twirl" in his playing days, Cureton grew up in Detroit and played prep school ball at Finney High School. He played collegiately at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania before transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy his final two seasons, playing under Dick Vitale. His number 24 was retired at Detroit Mercy in January of 2023.
After his playing career, Cureton went back to school and earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Services at U of D in 2011. He had worked with the Pistons as a community ambassador since 2013.
Cureton has done a few stories with 7 Action News over the years, including speaking with Jeanna Trotman about the Pistons city edition jerseys honoring the historic St. Cecilia's Gym in 2022, and with Carolyn Clifford last December, when Cureton helped surprise a 10-year-old and his mother living in a local shelter with Pistons tickets.
Statement from the Detroit Pistons organization:
“The Detroit Pistons organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Earl Cureton, a person who meant so much to the organization as a colleague, former player, community ambassador and friend. As tough a competitor as he was during his playing years on the court, he was equally kind-hearted, outgoing and impactful off it. He represented our franchise with great passion and truly enjoyed working to give back and improve the lives of Detroiters in the city he loved so much. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Earl’s family and countless friends and teammates during this most difficult time.”
Statement from Pistons owner Tom Gores:
“Earl was one of the most generous, positive and caring people I knew. He was a loving father, devoted to his family, and I was honored to be his friend. He was a champion as a player and an important ambassador in our community. We are heartbroken over his loss.”
Statement from former Pistons player & Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, a teammate of Cureton:
“All of us are hurting with the unexpected loss of Earl Cureton. He was a tremendous teammate, tough competitor, a champion and a great human being. Earl always held the Detroit community close to his heart and worked tirelessly to make a difference for the city he loved. He will be greatly missed.”