On Friday, during the latest episode of the televised game show series’ annual Tournament of Champions, guest host Buzzy Cohen honored Smith, who qualified to take part in the tournament ahead of his death.
“You’ve now met all 15 of the players who qualified for the Tournament of Champions — well, almost all,” Cohen, 36, said during the tribute. “Brayden Smith, the incredible young man who won five shows and $115,000 in January, passed away earlier this year.”
Cohen added, “Brayden’s family has established a fund in his name, and Jeopardy! will be donating to that fund. We want to express our best wishes and condolences to his family.”
Smith’s mother, Debbie Smith, thanked Jeopardy! for paying tribute to her son in a statement. “Our family is deeply touched by @Jeopardy’s ToC tribute to Brayden and its pledge to support the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund,” she tweeted. “What a formidable group of Champs. Brayden would feel honored to be counted among you.”
Courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc. Brayden Smith
Smith died on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas, according to his obituary in The Las Vegas Review-Journal. The game show contestant had appeared on several of late host Alex Trebek‘s final episodes before the host’s death in November from pancreatic cancer.
Smith’s family members told a local CBS station in his hometown that he died following complications from surgery. No other details were shared at the time.
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“We are heartbroken to share that our dear Brayden Smith recently passed away unexpectedly,” his mother Debbie tweeted in February. “We are so grateful that Brayden was able to live out his dream on @jeopardy.”
At the time, Jeopardy! also released a statement following news of Smith’s death: “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.”
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Smith was nicknamed “Billy Buzzsaw” by Trebek for his ability to quickly hit the buzzer, according to Deadline.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards spoke about how he believed that Trebek enjoyed having Smith as a contestant on the long-running game show series.
“[Trebek] did, I believe, really like Brayden,” Richards, 45, told the outlet. “I could tell that he very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch. I think that energized him.”
Smith’s death also marked the third time that a contestant who was supposed to return for the Tournament of Champions died before they could make their return, according to EW, which reported that contestant Cindy Stowell died of colon cancer before her episodes aired back in December 2016, while 2018 Teachers Tournament winner Larry Martin died of pancreatic cancer in January 2019.