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Former Detroit Pistons star Earl Cureton dies at 66 after collapsing at his Michigan home as tributes pour in for the NBA champion: ‘He was always trying to inspire young people to chase their dreams’

Former NBA player Earl Cureton died unexpectedly on Sunday, according to the Detroit Pistons. He was 66.

No cause of death was revealed. The Detroit News reported that Cureton collapsed Sunday morning at his home in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Cureton also was a college star at Detroit Mercy. Though he never got to play for Dick Vitale, who coached at Detroit Mercy before leaving for a job with the Pistons, Vitale helped Cureton transfer to Detroit Mercy.

‘I am heartbroken,’ Vitale said in a text message to The Detroit News on Sunday. ‘He loved the Motor City and was so proud of working so hard to make it to the NBA.’

‘And Earl was always trying to inspire young people to chase their dreams,’ Vitale continued. 

Cureton passed away Sunday at age 66 after representing Detroit at every level of basketball

Cureton wasn't primarily known as a coach, but led Dennis Rodman and the Long Beach Jam

Cureton wasn’t primarily known as a coach, but led Dennis Rodman and the Long Beach Jam

Cureton, known as ‘The Twirl,’ played 12 seasons in the NBA and won championships with the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers and 1993-94 Houston Rockets. He had career averages of 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 674 games.

Cureton played three seasons (1983-86) with the Pistons and spent the last 10 years as a community ambassador for the franchise.

‘Earl was one of the most generous, positive and caring people I knew,’ Pistons owner Tom Gores said. 

‘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,’ Gores continued. 

Cureton played two seasons at Detroit Mercy. He averaged 20 points and 9.1 rebounds during the 1979-80 season. 

He is a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame and Cureton’s No 24 is also retired by Detroit Mercy. 

After retiring from basketball, Cureton was also a coach in the revival of the American Basketball Association. 

With Dennis Rodman as his biggest star, he led the Long Beach Jam to a championship in 2004.  

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