Celebrated NBA Analyst Sekou Smith Dies of COVID-19

Illustration for article titled Celebrated NBA Analyst Sekou Smith Dies of COVID-19
Screenshot: NBA TV

This one hurts.

Celebrated NBA analyst Sekou Smith, one of the most beloved figures within the NBA community, died Tuesday after a battle with COVID-19. He was 48.

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After graduating from Jackson State University in Mississippi, the Grand Rapids, Mich., native cut his teeth at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson before becoming a beat writer for the Indiana Pacers (at the Indianapolis Star) and Atlanta Hawks (at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Smith would eventually join Turner Sports in 2009, where he became a fixture on NBA TV, frequently contributed to NBA.com as a writer, and lent his intelligence and insight to the Hang Time Podcast.

As news of his death began to circulate, the NBA community took to social media to mourn one of its unsung heroes.

“The NBA mourns the passing of Sekou Smith, a beloved member of the NBA family,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in a statement. “Sekou was one of the most affable and dedicated reporters in the NBA and a terrific friend to so many across the league. He covered the game for more than two decades, including the past 11 years with Turner Sports, where he showed his full range of skills as an engaging television analyst, podcast host and writer. Sekou’s love of basketball was clear to everyone who knew him and it always shined through in his work. Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife, Heather, and their children, Gabriel, Rielly and Cameron.”

“It just hit hard,” New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy, who previously worked with Smith at Turner Sports, said. “I think for all of us, this COVID thing has been painful, to say the least. But when you lose somebody that you know, and that you admire and respect and who is young. I mean, he might not be young by some of your guys’ standards, but young by my standards—it’s just really, really hard.”

“The Atlanta Hawks organization is heartbroken by the passing of Sekou Smith,” the Atlanta Hawks wrote in a statement. “The Hawks’ beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 2005-09, Sekou provided our fans with honest and fair coverage, sharing incredible insight on the team while establishing himself as one of the NBA’s top basketball personalities. He made Atlanta his home, continuing his brilliant work at NBA Digital on TV and behind the keyboard telling the stories of the league in his unique way. Sekou’s passion for the NBA and its players was only outmatched by the pride and love he reserved for his family and friends. We send our condolences to his wife Heather and their three children. He will be sorely missed.”

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Countless NBA players, both current and former, made it a point to pay their respects, too.

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As did fellow reporters, journalists, and other NABJ members:

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Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Smith. His presence within the NBA will truly be missed.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.

DISCUSSION

The one thing I’ll remember about him is that he wasn’t always thirsty. His insights on why moves were being made, especially when he was covering the Hawks when they were struggling, weren’t done for hot takes. He was honest, passionate without being over-the-top, and knew his shit. When he talked, I didn’t just listen, I believed it.

Damn. Just, damn.  Ain’t right.  rip