Sekou Smith, a longtime NBA reporter and television analyst, died Tuesday after battling COVID-19. He was 48 years old.
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Smith attended college in Jackson State, Mississippi, before starting his career at the city’s Jackson Clarion ledger. He then became an integral part of the NBA universe – first as a beatwriter for the Indiana Pacers for the Indianapolis Star and the Atlanta Hawks for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, before moving to Turner Sports in 2009.
Smith spent more than a decade with Turner on all platforms, serving as an analyst for NBA TV, writer for NBA.com, and host of the Hang Time podcast.
Smith is survived by his wife, Heather, and their three children, Gabriel, Rielly, and Cameron.
“We are all broken over Secou’s tragic death. His commitment to journalism and the basketball community has been immense and we will miss his warm, dedicated personality,” Turner Sports said in a statement. “He was loved by his friends and colleagues at Turner Sports and the NBA. Our deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones.”
– NBA (@NBA) January 27, 2021
Smith was universally popular in the basketball world, both for the work he produced on the sport over his nearly two decades and, more importantly, for being a kind and decent person who has an ubiquitous smile and wonderful laugh. These and many other virtues were reinforced by the spread of news on social media after the news of his death.
In addition to his colleagues from the journalism industry, the honors went to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Steve Kerr, coach of Golden State Warriors, and Stan Van Gundy, coach of New Orleans Pelicans.
“The NBA mourns the loss of Sekou Smith, a beloved member of the NBA family,” Silver said in a statement. “Sekou was one of the most sociable and dedicated reporters in the NBA and a great friend to so many in the league. He covered the game for more than two decades, including the last 11 years at Turner Sports, where he showed his full love for Sekou basketball was clear to everyone who knew him, and she has always made herself felt in his work. Our deepest condolences go to his wife Heather and their children Gabriel Rielly and Cameron. “
Both Kerr and Van Gundy worked with Smith at Turner Sports and took time to recognize his death after their respective teams trained on Tuesday.
“I just heard the news about Sekou Smith and I am just devastated,” said Kerr. “I know that I speak for our entire organization and that I only destroy news today. Sekou has been a part of the NBA family for a long time.
“I just want to express my condolences to our organization to Sekou’s family.”
“It just hit hard,” said Van Gundy, who worked with Smith at Turner Sports before taking the Pelicans job ahead of this season. Van Gundy said he got the news shortly before training started.
“I think this COVID thing has been painful for all of us to say the least. But when you lose someone you know, admire and respect and who is young.
“I mean, he may not be young by some standards of you, but young by my standards, it’s just very, very difficult. This thing is so scary and has caused so much grief to so many people. … Today is one these days. There are many people in Atlanta today mourning a great man in Sekou. “
NBA players past and present have also offered condolences on his death, including Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade.
The man just got a little heavier today … my condolences to Sekou’s wife, family, friends and the extended NBA family. What a kind and compassionate man we have just lost. 🙏🏾🕊
– Chris Paul (@ CP3) January 27, 2021
I never had anything other than positive interactions and conversations with Sekou Smith. Our prayers go to the Smith family. We lost a good one. Rest in heaven https://t.co/yszgMXpfo1
– DWade (@DwyaneWade) January 27, 2021
A passionate Michigan Wolverines fan, Smith served countless colleagues in the industry as a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He was also one of the few journalists who spent time in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida covering last season’s playoffs, including the NBA finals.
Both the NABJ and Pro Basketball Writers Association issued statements recognizing his life and legacy, as did the Pacers and Hawks, the two teams he covered as a beatwriter.
“Sekou Smith’s death from COVID-19 complications has hit so many members of the NABJ Sports family extremely hard,” the NABJ said in a statement. “He was more than a colleague; he was a friend and brother of ours and so many others.
“Our deepest prayers go to his wife, Heather, and their children.
Thank you for your brotherly friendship, humor, honesty, and compassion. I’m glad we could tell each other three weeks ago that we made love. You were a gift to this earth as a friend, father and husband, Sekou Smith. Rest in peace to my brother. Prayers to your wife and family pic.twitter.com/mqjnZyEHNz
– Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) January 26, 2021
“Our members are devastated by the death of our beloved friend and trusted colleague, Sekou Smith,” the Pro Basketball Writers Association said in a statement. “He was a kind, caring person and a great journalist. We love you, Sekou. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and employees at Turner Sports.”
However, no one summed up Smith better and more succinctly than Hawks trainer Lloyd Pierce after his team beat the LA Clippers in Smith’s adopted home Atlanta on Tuesday night.
“As real as the industry,” said Pierce.