Nick Gilbert, known by some NBA fans as the Cleveland Cavaliers' lucky draft lottery representative, has died at 26, the Ira Kaufman Chapel announced. A funeral announcement posted by the Southfield, Michigan, chapel said Gilbert died Saturday, “peacefully at home surrounded by family.”
Gilbert was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (NF1) as a child. The genetic condition causes non-cancerous tumors to grow along the nerves. There is no cure.
Nick's father, Dan Gilbert, is the founder and chairman of Rocket Companies and has owned the Cavaliers since 2005.
Dan sent his son to the NBA draft lottery to fill the Cavaliers' chair several times. Nick was never without his signature bow tie and saw the team get the No. 1 pick twice while he sat in the chair.
In 2011, a 14-year-old Gilbert was asked about his experience with the genetic condition and his perspective on being his dad's "personal hero."
“What’s not to like?” he said from the draft lottery chair. "I'm the oldest of five. I have a good life. I'm going through this disease, but I'm going through it while I'm getting better."
The Cavaliers went on to use the No. 1 pick on Kyrie Irving, who became an All-Star and won the title with LeBron James in 2016.
RIP Nick Gilbert, the legend.
This one hurts. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/CDQqsbVcLy
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) May 7, 2023
The Gilbert family lives in Michigan. They launched a foundation in 2017, and according to the Detroit News, it has funded more than $18 million in research grants toward finding a cure for Type 1 neurofibromatosis.
The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, offered his condolences on Twitter.
"Nick inspired people everywhere with his bravery and brought joy to everyone he met," he wrote. "All of Detroit has the Gilbert family in our prayers today."
Sonia and I were devastated this morning by the news that Dan and Jennifer Gilbert lost their beautiful son, Nick.
Nick inspired people everywhere with his bravery and brought joy to everyone he met. All of Detroit has the Gilbert family in our prayers today.
— Mayor Mike Duggan (@MayorMikeDuggan) May 7, 2023
Before this season, the Cavaliers announced that the team had joined with the Gilbert's foundation and the Children's Tumor Foundation to start the Bow Tie campaign to raise awareness of and money for neurofibromatosis research.
The team also dedicated the season to Nick Gilbert and other neurofibromatosis patients, wearing bowtie emblems during their warm-ups.