Former Detroit Pistons center and longtime team ambassador Earl Cureton died unexpectedly on Sunday, the team announced.
He was 66.
“Earl was one of the most generous, positive and caring people I knew,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement. “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.”
Specifics about his death are not yet known. Cureton, who worked on the ESPN+ broadcast for Detroit Mercy’s game against Robert Morris on Saturday, collapsed at his home on Sunday morning, according to The Detroit News.
Cureton, who grew up in the Detroit area, played in college at Robert Morris and Detroit Mercy before he was selected in the third round of the 1979 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He spent his first three seasons in the league there before landing back in Detroit ahead of the 1983-84 season. He spent the next three seasons there, and helped lead the team back to the playoffs after a six-year drought, before bouncing around for the rest of his career. By the time he retired after the 1996-97 season, Cureton spent time with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors. He also played professionally in Italy, France, Venezuela, Mexico and Argentina.
In total, Cureton averaged 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game over 12 seasons in the NBA. Cureton later spent time as an assistant coach with the Long Beach Jam, which he led to an ABA Championship, and then returned to Detroit to graduate from Detroit Mercy — where he played under head coach Dick Vitale — and join the Pistons as a community ambassador.
Cureton was inducted into the Robert Morris and Detroit Mercy halls of fame. He also had his jersey retired by Detroit Mercy in 2020.
“All of us are hurting with the unexpected loss of Earl Cureton,” former Pistons star and Hall of Famer 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.”