Former Two Time NBA Champion Earl Cureton dies at 66

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2024 8:26 pm    Post subject: Former Two Time NBA Champion Earl Cureton dies at 66

Earl Cureton, beloved Detroit basketball legend, dies suddenly at 66

years old.

Earl Cureton, a former Detroit high school basketball and University of Detroit standout, as well as a Detroit Pistons center and community ambassador for the team, passed away suddenly Sunday morning. He was 66.

Cureton, nicknamed "The Twirl," starred for Detroit Finney before starting his collegiate career at Robert Morris in 1976. He only stayed at the school for a season before transferring back home. He helped the Titans — before they became Detroit Mercy — as a junior to the 1979 NCAA tournament, and the following season averaged a team-best 20 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Pistons' Earl Cureton grabs a rebound away from Nuggets' Pete Williams ending the first half at the Pontiac Silverdome.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1979 in the third round, and joined the team a year later, where he played for three seasons before signing with the Pistons ahead of the 1983-84 season. His professional career lasted 17 seasons, with multiple stops overseas before he retired at 39, after the 1996-97 season with the Toronto Raptors.

Cureton played in 674 NBA games, averaging 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds across 12 seasons, and won championships as a reserve with the Sixers (1983) and Houston Rockets (1994).

Cureton had been an ambassador with the Pistons since 2013 and a Titans television analyst for more than a decade. His cause of death is unknown.

"We feel like we've been robbed," George Blaha, longtime Pistons television broadcaster, said on the Bally Sports Detroit postgame telecast Sunday after the Pistons lost to the Orlando Magic. "Spending time with Earl was as good as it gets."

Cureton filled in on Pistons radio Friday for an ill Rick Mahorn, and was supposed to fill in again Sunday at Little Caesars Arena, according to Blaha and Cureton's longtime friend and Pistons color analyst Greg Kelser.

"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," the team said in a release. "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.”

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Earl Cureton speaks during his jersey retirement ceremony at Calihan Hall in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.
"All of us are hurting," former Pistons teammate Isiah Thomas said in a statement. "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."

Cureton had his No. 24 jersey retired by Detroit Mercy in 2020, after fulfilling a promise to his mother by completing his degree there in 2011.

His new book, "Earl the Twirl: My Life in Basketball," was published in December.
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