Nick Gilbert, beloved by NBA fans for representing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the draft lottery, died Saturday of a genetic disease. he was 26 years old.
The son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and his wife Jennifer, Nick had a lifelong battle with neurofibromatosis (NF1), a benign tumor that grows in the brain, spinal cord and skin. There is no cure.
His obituary was announced by Ira Kauffman Chapel in Southfield, Michigan. The Gilberts live in Michigan.
“Nick has been a source of light and inspiration to many throughout his 26-year life,” the Cavaliers said in a statement Sunday. “Nick’s relentless spirit is the driving force behind our organization, whether we take on an important role or use his voice to champion the fight against the NF.”
Dan Gilbert is the founder and chairman of Rocket Companies and has owned the Cavaliers since 2005. He frequently sent Nick to his NBA Draft Lottery to sit in the Cavaliers’ chair and bring good luck to the team. With Nick in the typical bow tie in his seat, the Cavaliers drafted him twice in the draft lottery.
In 2011, they used it for Kyrie Irving, and two years later they chose Anthony Bennett.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan tweeted, “Nick inspired people around the world with his courage and brought joy to everyone he met. Today, all of Detroit stands for the Gilbert family.” I am praying.”
In 2017, the Gilberts launched a foundation to provide more than $18 million in research grants toward finding a cure for type 1 neurofibromatosis, according to The Detroit News.
Because young Gilbert underwent multiple surgeries last season, the Cavaliers teamed up with the Gilbert Foundation and the Children’s Tumor Foundation to launch a bowtie campaign to raise funds and awareness for neurofibromatosis.
The Cavaliers dedicated their recently ended season to Nick and others affected by the condition. The team wore the bow tie emblem during warm-ups to honor him and raise awareness of his illness.
Nick’s funeral will be held Tuesday at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.