“Rest in Peace”: Magic Johnson Pays Tribute to Earl Cureton, Fellow Michigan Native Who He Played Alongside on All-Star Team

Published 02/04/2024, 8:51 PM EST

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Earl Cureton’s contribution to Detroit did not make it to the headlines a lot. He was someone who worked in the shadows. After his retirement in 1997, he made sure basketball would still be a part of his life. He joined as a coach where he won the ABA championship for the Long Beach Jam in 2004. Later in 2013, he joined as the Pistons’ Community Ambassador. With a huge role like that, he renovated the neighborhood basketball courts, arranged community events, and played a crucial part in community outreach programs for Detroit.

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Sadly, the NBA veteran collapsed at his house this Sunday morning in Michigan and passed away. Just a day ago, he was broadcasting for ESPN+. He was 66. While Magic Johnson didn’t get a chance to play with Cureton until much later in life, he held him in high regard. “He had a big heart, was funny, and truly a pleasure to be around,” Johnson stated. The Los Angeles Lakers reminisced about his time with Cureton when they represented the state of Michigan. After all, both hail from Michigan.

He shared, “Rest in peace to a fellow Michigan native and my good friend, Earl Cureton. Earl played on seven NBA teams throughout his career and I had the pleasure of playing against him at the collegiate and pro level.” Further in his tweet, Johnson added, “I finally got the chance to play alongside him on the Magic Johnson All-Star team, where we traveled around the world and competed against international players… Cookie and I are praying for the Cureton family and all of Earl’s close friends during this difficult time.”

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He appreciated Cureton for playing alongside him for the Magic Johnson All-Star team in 1994. Reggie Theus, guards Lester Conner and John Long, forwards Earl Cureton and Greg Kesler were a part of the team. All players combined, they played in 4,403 NBA regular season games.

As Magic mentioned, Cureton was part of his All-Star team, which traveled the world following Johnson’s retirement in 1991. The team played in Australia, Europe, South America, New Zealand, and Japan. They also played teams from the CBA in the US. While Cureton played for several teams throughout his career, Detroit always remained his true home. However, playing for different teams had its advantages as well as he got to play with some of the greatest players in league history, such as Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and more.

The former Pistons guard used to regularly fill in for Pistons radio and he did so on Friday as well for an ill Rick Mahorn. He was supposed to fill in again on Sunday at the Little Ceasers Arena, as per longtime Pistons television broadcaster, George Blaha.

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Earl Cureton’s unmatched service for Detroit, just like Magic Johnson

Cureton believed one should always give back to the place that they came from. He shared, “Sometimes, you can make a difference in people’s lives just by sitting down, talking to them and explaining things…I like being out in the community and working with the kids.” No doubt he engaged in humanitarian causes.

The Pistons shared their thoughts as well. “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 stated 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.”

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Did you know the veteran also coached? He coached in the NBA, United States Basketball League, and Continental Basketball Association after his playing career. The 66-year-old’s service and life might have come to an end, but his legacy will live on. What was your favorite memory of Cureton? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by:

Rohan Dharmalingam

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