The New York Times reported Saturday that Brayden Smith, a five-time champion on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! who was among the last contestants to film with the late host Alex Trebek, died “unexpectedly” earlier this month at the young age of 24.
The Times cited an obituary that said Smith was “looking forward to competing” in Jeopardy!‘s upcoming Tournament of Champions.
His cause of death was not revealed.
“The best part of it”
According to the obituary, Smith had recently graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with an economics degree. He reportedly “intended to attend law school and become an attorney for the federal government.”
According to the New York Post, the 24-year-old had won “five games in a row” on Jeopardy! just last October, racking up more than $115,000 in prize money. Smith’s obituary called his appearance on the show “a lifelong dream” of his.
“The best part of it for me was spending time with [Trebek],” Smith said following his winning run on the show, as the Post reported. “Doing the questions and answers is almost incidental, I think, to spending time with somebody who I had cherished in my life for such a long period of time… I think back on it all the time and really savor each moment that I got to have with him.”
Trebek died in November of last year, months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, The New York Times reported at the time.
“Kind, funny, and absolutely brilliant”
Trebek’s death stunned the nation — and Smith’s was no different.
“[Trebek] did, I believe, really like Brayden,” Mike Richards, an executive producer for Jeopardy!, said, according to the New York Post. “I could tell that he very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch. I think that energized him.”
In a social media post after his death, the Jeopardy! team called Smith “kind, funny, and absolutely brilliant.”
The JEOPARDY! family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith. He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden’s family. He will be missed.
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) February 12, 2021
According to the obituary, Smith is survived by his parents, Scott and Deborah Smith, as well as three brothers: 26-year-old Bryce, 18-year-old Brock, and 15-year-old Brody.