Sekou Smith, a Grand Rapids, Michigan native and a Jackson State University (HBCU) alumnus, died on January 26, 2021 at the age of 48 due to COVID-19 complications. In 1994, three years prior to graduating from University, Smith started his sports journalism journey with the Clarion Ledger. At the time of his death, he was a beloved sports analyst and NBA reporter. Smith covered the NBA for 20 years and created The Hang Time Blog (NBA.com) and hosted The Hang Time Podcast all while serving as an analyst and anchor for NBA TV. Tributes from the many lives that he touched have poured in for the beloved journalist.
Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, released the followed statement: “The NBA mourns the passing of Sekou Smith, a beloved member of the NBA family. 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.”
Lenny Daniels, the president of Turner Sports, released the following statement: “To anyone who knew Sekou, he was the utmost professional and someone who was so dedicated to his craft. He was well connected throughout the industry and his passion and love for the game was unwavering … beyond his many professional accomplishments, Sekou will be remembered as being such a wonderful person. His closest friends describe him as “everyone’s best friend” for how much he genuinely cared for others at all times. He had such a warm, engaging personality and an ability to truly connect with people.”
Friends, colleagues, and players shared heartfelt tributes on social media and on their various media platforms.
Peer Adrian Wojnarowski said, “Sekou Smith was the very best of us. Smart. Funny. Unflinching. Full of good. A lot of days and nights on the road with him – Bubble, Finals, Olympics, wherever – and always this: Photos of his kids playing ball, or graduating, or leaving for college. Godspeed, my friend.”
January 26th was already a tough day for the NBA community as it marked the day that Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and 7 other people died tragically in a helicopter crash one year ago. Smith’s passing, due to the deadly virus that has claimed the lives of so many, made a sad day even sadder.
Chris Paul tweeted out, “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.”
There was an ease and grace with which Smith was able to connect with players and colleagues.
Former player and current NBA TV analyst Dennis Scott said, “He’s one of the writers who gets it. One who dug deeper for the story. Sekou got into who we were as athletes and as people.”
“Sekou Smith was one of the first NABJ-ers to take me under his wing and make me feel like I belonged,” said Malika Andrews. “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.”