The death of 48-year-old Smith baffled Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, and Stan Van Gundy, coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, both of whom had worked with Smith at Turner Sports.
“I just heard the news about Sekou Smith and I am just devastated,” Kerr told reporters. “I know that I speak for our entire organization and that I only destroy news today. Sekou has been part of the NBA family for a long time. “
The word “family” was emphasized repeatedly. “It just hit hard,” said Van Gundy, adding that he learned of Smith’s death shortly before training. “I think this Covid thing was 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 of your boys’ standards, 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 of those days. In Atlanta today, many people mourn a great man in Sekou. “
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Smith graduated from Jackson State University and began his career at Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. He later reported on the Indiana Pacers for the Indianapolis Star and the Atlanta Hawks for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined Turner Sports in 2009, analyzing games for NBA TV, writing for NBA.com and hosting the Hang Time podcast and blog. He also appeared regularly on NBA TV’s “Game Time” and “The Beat” studio shows.
He is survived by his wife Heather and their three children Gabriel, Rielly and Cameron.
NBA stars past and present had met him over the years. Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul praised Smith’s compassion, and Dwyane Wade commented, “We lost a good one.”
“Man has become a little heavier today,” tweeted Paul. “[M]y Condolences to Sekou’s wife, family, friends and the extended NBA family. What a kind and compassionate man we just lost. “
“I’ve never had anything but positive interactions and conversations with Sekou Smith,” recalled Wade. “Our prayers go to the Smith family. We lost a good one. Rest in heaven “
NBA commissioner Adam Silver praised Smith’s love of the game. “Sekou has been one of the most sociable and dedicated reporters in the NBA and a great friend to so many in the league,” Silver said in a statement. “He has covered the game for more than two decades, including the last 11 years at Turner Sports where he demonstrated his full range of skills as a dedicated television analyst, podcast host and writer. Sekou’s love for basketball was clear to everyone who knew him, and it has always prevailed in his work. “
Smith also influenced his colleagues and often mentored young reporters, including as a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. “Sekou Smith was one of the first NABJ members to take me under his wing and make me feel like I belong,” wrote ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “He pushed for the best in young reporters, was a strong advocate of diversity in journalism – and did so with a smile on his face. A professional. Our friend. He is missing. “
Michael Lee, who wrote about the Washington Wizards and the NBA for the Washington Post, remembered Smith never having a joke and called him “the funniest, coolest, sh ** – talking brother I’ve ever met . A sincere, genuine, all-round great guy. One of those people who made you feel better just being around them. Saying that I’m devastated doesn’t do justice to how I feel today.
“This loss hits hard. I like to think that I’m cool with a lot of people in business, but I would only call a handful my brother. Sekou was a brother. I sent him a check-in text 2 weeks ago to see how he is doing in all this madness. I never heard of anything and I never will. I hurt “
Chris Haynes, a reporter for Yahoo and TNT, shared a video of a leisurely bike ride while in the NBA bubble last season in Florida. “What I would give for another bike ride in the bladder with your brother,” he wrote. Together with @THE_Morgann @MarcJSpears and John Scott we bonded like never before. @SekouSmithNBA fell a couple of times, but he got up and kept riding. Now he’s riding up. Take a rest, big brother. I love you.”
“Thank you for your brotherly friendship, humor, honesty, and compassion,” tweeted Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated. “I’m glad we could say three weeks ago that we loved each other. 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 “
Memories were deeply personal and the word “kind” was mentioned repeatedly by colleagues. “Sekou Smith was the best of us. Clever. Funny. Imperturbable. Full of good things, ”recalled Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN. “Out and about with him for many days and nights – bubble, final, Olympic Games, wherever – and always that: photos of his children playing ball, graduating or going to college. Have a good trip my friend. “