Longtime NBA reporter Sekou Smith has died at age 48.
The journalist of 20 years and Turner Sports analyst passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 26, after battling the coronavirus, ESPN reported. For the past decade or so, Smith worked for NBA TV and NBA.com and also hosted the NBA Hang Time podcast.
Smith was born in 1972 and was a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended Jackson State University in Mississippi, before starting his career at The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, ESPN reported. He later worked as a sports beat writer, covering the Indiana Pacers for The Indianapolis Star and the Atlanta Hawks for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, before joining Turner Sports in 2009, the outlet said.
"We are all heartbroken over Sekou's tragic passing," Turner Sports said in a statement. "His commitment to journalism and the basketball community was immense and we will miss his warm, engaging personality. He was beloved by his Turner Sports and NBA friends and colleagues. Our deepest condolences are with his family and loved ones."
In his own statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the basketball league "mourns the passing of Sekou Smith, a beloved member of the NBA family."
He continued, "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."
NBA stars, coaches and Smith's colleagues also paid tribute to him following news of his death:
Retired Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade tweeted, "I've never had anything but positive interactions and conversations with Sekou Smith. Our prayers go out to the Smith family. We lost a good one. Rest In Heaven."
Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul tweeted, "Man today just got a little heavier... my condolences to Sekou's wife, family, friends, and extended NBA family. What a kind and compassionate man we just lost."
New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters, "It's really hard to sit here and talk about basketball games when we just lost one of the best people that I've ever been around...[He was] just a great, great person who cared about other people. Great sense of humor, a positive, upbeat guy, extremely intelligent."
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "I just heard the news about Sekou Smith, and I am just devastated. I know I speak for our entire organization, just crushing news today. Sekou has been a part of the NBA family for a long time. "I just want to express our organization's condolences to Sekou's family."
NBA TV host Chris Miles tweeted, "This is how I will always remember my brother Sekou Smith. We had fun together my friend. For those that didn't know him he was an exuberant Michigan Man and had a heart of gold."
ESPN NBA writer Marc J. Spears tweeted, "Thank you for your brotherly friendship, humor, honesty and compassion. Glad we had a chance to tell each other we loved each other three weeks ago. You were a gift to this Earth as a friend, father and a man Sekou Smith. Rest In Peace to my brother. Prayers to your wife & family."
ESPN NBA reporter Malika Andrews tweeted, "Sekou Smith was one of the first NABJ-ers to take me under his wing and make me feel like I belonged. He pushed to bring the best out of young reporters, was a fierce advocate of diversity in journalism — and did it with a smile on his face. A pro. Our friend. He is missed."
The Los Angeles Clippers team said in a statement on Twitter: "We join the NBA family in mourning the heartbreaking loss of Sekou Smith, a fantastic writer and a great ambassador of our game. We extend our deepest condolences to the Smith family."
The Oklahoma City Thunder said, "He brought incredible joy and professionalism to his coverage of the NBA. The Thunder offers our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sekou Smith."
The Philadelphia 76ers said, "We would like to send our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sekou Smith. A talented writer, a true proponent of the game of basketball and a wonderful human being. He will be missed. Rest in peace."
The Detroit Pistons said, "The Pistons join the NBA community in mourning the passing of Sekou Smith. For nearly two decades, the Grand Rapids native provided insightful information to audiences across multiple platforms, and brought humor & personality to interviews with our team. Prayers to his family."