The news of Smith’s death came as a shock to his fans and fellow sports writers across the nation. Smith, who graduated from Jackson State University in 1997 with a degree in mass communications and went on to become an award-winning writer and reporter, didn’t give any hint that he was suffering via his Instagram page.
On January 6, his final post before dying, the creator and host of the NBA Hang Time blog and podcast celebrated the senatorial election runoff results in his home state of Georgia. He posted a photo of his “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker and captioned the photo, “Feels so good waking up in Georgia this morning.”
While Smith was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he considered himself an “adopted ATLien,” as stated on his Facebook bio. The comments on his final Instagram post immediately filled with “RIP” tributes following the news of Smith’s death on Tuesday.
It was only a few weeks ago that Smith was on-air with NBA TV, discussing why Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was his No. 1 MVP.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 9, 2021
His final appearance on the NBA Hang Time podcast was on January 11.
This is absolutely heartbreaking. Just 48. pic.twitter.com/6t79hvIZQI
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) January 27, 2021
Smith, a veteran member of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, is survived by his wife, Heather, and their three children, Gabriel, Rielly and Cameron. They reside in Marietta, Georgia.
Smith Proudly Posted Photos of His Wife & Children on Instagram
While many of Smith’s Instagram posts revolved around the world of basketball, he regularly shared pictures of his wife and children with uplifting captions highlighting their achievements.
On May 20, 2020, he wrote a heartfelt tribute to his wife on Mother’s Day. He said, “If you only knew what it takes for this one to ever take a bow as the great Mother, wife, teacher and all around beautiful soul that she is and always has been (she puts up with me, so she must be an 😇). Happy Mother’s Day.”
In June 2020, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Smith shared a powerful post about his sons. He captioned the album:
Hey World, these are my sons. I love them as fiercely as you love yours (never mind that they often drive me crazy … it’s the hair, it’s always been the hair). They didn’t ask to be here, caught in the swirl of anyone’s foolishness. Their Mother and I have only one request. Do us a favor, if you would, and judge these cats by the size of their hearts and the strength of their character. We vow to do the same for yours. Thanks.
Tributes Filled Twitter Following the News of Smith’s Death
The Turner Sports family mourns the loss of our very own, Sekou Smith.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/97mu4bylfA
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 27, 2021
It was an especially sad day in the basketball world on Tuesday, as Smith’s death came on the first anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death.
Sportswriter Jemele Hill tweeted, “I’ve known Sekou Smith since I was 20 years old. Never forget the day we met. We were both interns at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and we met filling out our paperwork. We clicked right away and a great friendship was born. I’m glad he’s at peace, but this absolutely hurts.”
Steve Kerr: "I just heard the news about Sekou Smith. I'm just devastated. Crushing news. Sekou has been part of the NBA family for a long time…Just another awful day and we're all so saddened."
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 27, 2021
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. pic.twitter.com/QkDUHOF8bc
— Chris Miles (@chrismilestv) January 27, 2021
I will never forget the kindnesses that Sekou Smith showed me. My heart feels broken. In his memory I’ll share something he once told me:
“Write whenever the mood hits, write about whatever you want to write about and never hold back.”
— Sarah Todd (@NBASarah) January 26, 2021
The Associated Press’ NBA reporter Tim Reynolds tweeted, “Sekou Smith was always cheerful, always pleasant, loved the game and loved the fact that he could tell stories about this game. I was humbled and honored to call him a friend. May he rest in peace, and may God bless his family, friends and colleagues in these awful days.”
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.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) January 27, 2021