NBA Rumor: Sekou Smith Death

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The outpouring of condolences, from fellow media members to players such as Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade to coaches across the league, is only a small indication of the weight of Smith’s loss. He was part of the fabric of the league, a person who could make you feel like you’d known him forever, even if you’d only been recently acquainted. An NBA lifer, it was only natural that Nuggets coach Michael Malone knew him as well. “I got to know him through my father (Brendan Malone),” Malone said. “… And through my father’s relationship with Sekou, I got to know him and interact with him. Last time I saw him in person was down in the ‘Bubble’ in Orlando, talking with him. Great man. “I’m just devastated for his family,” Malone said. “Obviously, I speak for everybody within our organization that we’re thinking about Sekou’s family at this time. It’s just a really morbid reminder that COVID, everything we’re going through, the testing, the protocols, the masks, social distancing … we’re doing it for a reason. This is real. Sekou will definitely be missed.”


David Aldridge: The stories he would tell about his days on the Hawks’ beat! They would make me realize how wired in he was, and how easy it would have been for him to become an “insider” or some such, had he chosen to do so. He knew as much, maybe more, about what was going on around the league, because everyone in the game was comfortable talking with him — he didn’t do transactional relationships. But he didn’t need or want the scoop that bad. He just loved the game and the people in it. And so I’m saddest of all for those who were closest to him.

Along the way, Mr. Smith bonded with many writers, especially those who had also attended historically Black colleges and universities, including Mr. Lee and Marc Spears, an N.B.A. writer for the ESPN website The Undefeated who befriended Mr. Smith about 20 years ago while covering the Nuggets for The Denver Post. Mr. Smith’s gentle smack talk and humor charmed his friends. “He could’ve been a comedian on the side if he wanted to,” Mr. Spears said in a statement to The Times. “He was quick-witted with hilarious one-liners just like the late comedian Robin Harris.”

Smith was universally beloved within the basketball world, both for the work he produced in his nearly two decades covering the sport and, more importantly, for being a kind and decent person, one with an ever-present smile and a wonderful laugh. Those virtues, and many others, were reinforced in the outpouring of messages on social media following the news of his death. In addition to his colleagues across the journalism industry, the tributes came from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as well as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy.

Every reporter is assigned a press credential that’s necessary and mandatory for games and other sporting events, although with regard to Sekou, it was worthless. With him, no identification was necessary. “Working on the road with Sekou was an incredible experience because he knew everybody,” said Steve Quintana, executive producer at NBA.com. “Not only players and coaches, but security guards, parking attendants, equipment managers, doormen at the hotel. Everybody knew him and Sekou always stopped to talk to them.”
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