Rolling Out

Remembering Earl ‘The Twirl’ Cureton: A Detroit Pistons legend

Celebrating the legacy of Earl “The Twirl” Cureton and his impact on and off the court.
Photo Credit: Montez Miller

Detroit basketball mourns the sudden passing of a beloved figure, Earl “The Twirl” Cureton, on a somber Sunday morning. The former University of Detroit Mercy standout, Detroit Pistons player, and community ambassador for the franchise left an indelible mark on the city and the sport he loved. He was 66.

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.”

The Detroit Pistons organization, in a heartfelt statement, expressed profound sorrow over the loss of a man who wore many hats for the team. Cureton, a former player turned community ambassador, was remembered not only for his on-court prowess but also for his kindness, generosity, and dedication to making a positive impact off the court.


Pistons owner Tom Gores paid tribute to Cureton’s character, describing him as one of the most generous, positive, and caring individuals. Gores emphasized Cureton’s commitment to his family and his significant role as a champion both on and off the basketball court. The Pistons community is left heartbroken by the sudden departure of a cherished friend.

Earl “The Twirl” Cureton’s NBA journey began in 1979 when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as the 58th overall pick. He played a crucial role in the 76ers’ 1983 NBA championship victory, showcasing his skills and determination. Cureton would go on to secure his second NBA title in 1994 as a member of the Houston Rockets.


The big man also left a memorable mark during his three seasons with the Detroit Pistons (1983-86), where he played alongside legends such as Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson, and Rick Mahorn. His contributions on the court were matched by his dedication to the Detroit community, a sentiment echoed by Pistons great Isiah Thomas.

After retiring from playing, Cureton transitioned into coaching and achieved success with the ABA’s Long Beach Jam. He later became the head coach, guiding the team to an ABA Championship. In his role as a community ambassador for the Pistons, Cureton was a familiar face at numerous events, particularly those focused on supporting Detroit’s youth.

Before his illustrious NBA career, Cureton played collegiately at Robert Morris before transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy. His impact was felt during the 1979 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, where he led the Titans to the first round, eventually losing to Lamar University. In his final season at Detroit Mercy (1979-1980), Cureton averaged an impressive 19.9 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game. His stellar career earned him a spot in the school’s hall of fame, with his No. 24 jersey rightfully retired.

As Detroit bids farewell to Earl “The Twirl” Cureton, the memories of his achievements on the court and his tireless efforts off it will forever remain etched in the hearts of Pistons fans and the city he cherished.

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