Detroit Mourns NBA Champion and Community Hero Earl 'The Twirl' Cureton at Emotional Memorial Service

Detroit Mourns NBA Champion and Community Hero Earl 'The Twirl' Cureton at Emotional Memorial ServiceSource: Dave Hogg, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Javier Rodriguez
Published on February 12, 2024

On Saturday, Detroit said goodbye to one of its beloved sons, Earl "The Twirl" Cureton, a former Pistons player and NBA champion, who died at 66. A celebration of his life was held at St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church, with emotions running high amongst attendees, including notable figures and community members, as reported by CBS News Detroit. Muggsy Bogues, former teammate and close friend, expressed his grief to the gathered crowd, "It's hurting me too hard and I just wish you guys all the best. I hope you guys continue to be the best friends, the best ever. This is exactly what he wanted," Bogues told Cureton's loved ones.

It was known for Cureton’s dedication to the Detroit community, where he served as a mentor, advocate, and friend. He was remembered at another service at St. Cecilia’s Church, where crowds filled the pews to honor his memory. Speakers at the event included former Detroit Mayor and Pistons great Dave Bing, and current and former Detroit police chiefs James White and Isaiah McKinnon, who commended Cureton's work outside the basketball court, particularly his service on the board for St. Cecilia’s, to save its iconic gym. Having played alongside legends and served as a community ambassador, Cureton was a figure of generosity and compassion within the city he loved, as detailed by Detroit Free Press.

As a player, Cureton's career included stints with the 76ers, where he won a championship in 1983, and later with the Houston Rockets in 1994. He played for the Pistons from 1983-86, leaving a lasting impression on the team and the city. After his retirement, Cureton became an ambassador for the Pistons and actively engaged in the renovation of basketball courts and youth mentorship. Pistons owner Tom Gores, in a statement announcing Cureton's death, emphasized "Earl was one of the most generous, positive and caring people I know," a sentiment mirrored by the outpouring of tributes from the Detroit sports community. This was reported by hoodline.

Despite his passing, Cureton's legacy in Detroit will continue to resonate, as evidenced by the strong showing of love and respect at his memorial service. The Detroit Police Specialist Reserves announced that Cureton's No. 23 jersey, the one he wore while playing with the Pistons, would be retired and never worn again. His impact extended far beyond basketball, reaching into the hearts of many across various communities within the city, with Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem recognizing Cureton’s mission in life, "to improve the lives of young people here," Tellem said with emotions running high, according to the Detroit Free Press.