Nick Gilbert, familiar to NBA fans as the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ representative at the draft lottery, died Saturday from a genetic condition. He was 26.
The son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and wife Jennifer, Nick had a lifelong battle with neurofibromatosis (NF1), which causes noncancerous tumors to grow on the brain, spinal cord and skin. There is no cure.
His death was announced by the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield, Michigan. The Gilberts live in Michigan.
“Nick was a light and inspiration to so many throughout his 26 years of life,” the Cavaliers said in a statement 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.”
Dan Gilbert is the founder and chairman of Rocket Companies and has owned the Cavaliers since 2005. He frequently sent Nick to the NBA draft lottery to sit in the Cavaliers’ chair, and he brought good luck to the team. With Nick, wearing his typical bow tie, in the seat, the Cavs twice got the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery.
In 2011, they used it on Kyrie Irving. Two years later, they picked Anthony Bennett.
“Nick inspired people everywhere with his bravery and brought joy to everyone he met,” wrote Mike Duggan, the mayor of Detroit, on Twitter. “All of Detroit has the Gilbert family in our prayers today.”
In 2017, the Gilberts launched a foundation that, according to the Detroit News, has funded more than $18 million in research grants toward finding a cure for Type 1 neurofibromatosis.
Last season, as the younger Gilbert underwent multiple surgeries, the Cavaliers joined with the Gilberts’ foundation and the Children’s Tumor Foundation to start the Bow Tie campaign to raise money for and awareness of neurofibromatosis.
The Cavaliers dedicated the recently concluded season to Nick and others affected by the condition. The team wore bow tie emblems on their warmups to honor him and raise awareness for the disease.
Nick’s funeral will be held Tuesday at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan.