Nicolas “Nick” Gilbert, the son of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who became the team’s good luck charm in NBA draft lotteries, has died. He was 26 years old.
A funeral announcement released by the Ira Kaufman Chapel said Gilbert died Saturday “peacefully at home surrounded by his family.”
Gilbert was diagnosed as a child with neurofibromatosis (NF1), a genetic condition that causes noncancerous tumors to grow in the brain, spinal cord, and skin. There is no cure.
Sporting a signature bow tie and dark-rimmed glasses, Gilbert became a sensation when he represented the team in the 2011 lottery draft.
A season after LeBron James left as a free agent, Cleveland ended up with the first overall pick and used it to select Kyrie Irving, who became an All-Star and then paired with James to win the championship in 2016.
Then 14-year-old Nick Gilbert quipped, “What’s not to like?” after his father praised his efforts and called him his hero.
Gilbert represented the Cavs in several other lotteries. Cleveland also had the No. 1 pick in 2013 and 2014. He often attended team games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with his father and his mother, Jennifer.
The Cavaliers dedicated their 2022-23 season to the young Gilbert. The team wore bowtie emblems in their warmups to honor him and raise awareness of the disease. Nick Gilbert was first diagnosed with NF1 when he was a young child.
Leading Cleveland figures paid tribute to Gilbert on Sunday.
“Rest king! You brought so much joy to everyone you met! Sending blessings to the Gilbert family!” wrote the former Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden on Twitter.
Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb tweeted that Gilbert “will forever be loved and remembered as a Cleveland legend.”
While attending Michigan State in 2018, Gilbert underwent an eight-hour operation on his brain. In 2011 asked the Cleveland Plain Dealer if you had advice for other NF1 patients. Gilbert said it was important to “see the bright side of everything.”
Gilbert’s funeral will be held Tuesday.