By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Nicolas “Nick” Gilbert, the son of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who became the team’s good luck charm at NBA draft lotteries, has died. He was 26.
A funeral announcement posted by the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield, Michigan, said Gilbert died Saturday “peacefully at home surrounded by family.”
Gilbert was diagnosed as a child with neurofibromatosis (NF1), a genetic condition that causes non-cancerous tumors to grow on the brain, spinal cord and skin. There is no cure.
“Nick was a light and inspiration to so many throughout his 26 years of life,” the Cavaliers said in a statement on Sunday. “Whether taking on his signature role as the Cavs’ good luck charm during several NBA Draft Lotteries or using his voice to advocate in the fight against NF, Nick’s unrelenting spirit has been a driving force behind our organization.”
Wearing a bow tie and dark-rimmed glasses, Gilbert became a sensation when he represented the team at the 2011 draft lottery.
One season after LeBron James left as a free agent, Cleveland wound up with the No. 1 overall pick and used it to select Kyrie Irving, who became an All-Star and later paired with James to win the championship in 2016.
Then a 14-year-old, Nick Gilbert quipped “What’s not to like?” after his father had praised his efforts and called him his hero.
Gilbert represented the Cavs at several more lotteries. Cleveland also had the No. 1 pick in 2013 and 2014. He often attended the team’s games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with his dad and mom, Jennifer.
The Cavaliers dedicated their 2022-23 season to the younger Gilbert. The team wore bowtie emblems on their warmups to honor him and raise awareness for the disease. Nick Gilbert was first diagnosed with NF1 as a toddler.
While he was attending Michigan State in 2018, Gilbert underwent an eight-hour operation on his brain.
Gilbert’s funeral will be held Tuesday at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
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