‘Jeopardy!’ to Honor Late Champion Brayden Smith During ‘Tournament of Champions’

by Jennifer Shea

Late “Jeopardy!” champion Brayden Smith left a legacy of kindness and enthusiasm during his time on “Jeopardy!,” and now the game show is honoring Smith’s memory during the Tournament of Champions he didn’t live to see.

Smith was to have taken part in the upcoming tournament, which includes the 15 “Jeopardy!” contestants who won the most games from the last tournament in 2019 through the end of 2020.

Smith had been celebrated as “Alex’s Last Great Champion” for his performance on the show last year. (Late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died on Nov. 8, 2020 of stage 4 pancreatic cancer.) And Smith was reportedly very excited to compete in the Tournament of Champions.

Smith Died at Age 24

The “Jeopardy!” contestant had been hospitalized for several days at a Southern Nevada hospital prior to his death, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He died due to complications from a surgery he underwent there.

““The ‘JEOPARDY!’ family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith,” the game show said in a statement. “He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden’s family. He will be missed.”

Smith’s parents said they plan to launch the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund in their son’s memory. It will contribute to the education of Southern Nevada students with big dreams.

Before he died, Smith achieved his longtime dream, becoming a five-time “Jeopardy!” champion.

‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Was Unpretentious

According to his parents, Smith was whip-smart but unassuming, trying to tamp down news of his “Jeopardy!” success and even hide it from other people.

“He did not want a hoopla made about anything that he did,” his mother told the Review-Journal. “He didn’t even want me telling anyone he was on ‘Jeopardy!’ — even after it was going to be shown on the air. He didn’t want me telling anybody, but I did anyway.”

Smith’s mother drove him to Los Angeles for his first appearance on the show. When she picked him up, she noticed he was wearing a different sweater.

“I thought maybe he had won a game because he had changed his clothes,” she recounted to the Review-Journal. “Then he said, ‘I don’t want to have to tell you this, but I’m going to have to come back to L.A. in another week.’ That was exciting news.”

Smith clearly enjoyed his time on the show, and his parents were proud of his performance on it. After their son’s death, Smith’s parents said they received donations from all over the world toward their nonprofit memorial fund.

As for Smith himself? He couldn’t wait to get back to “Jeopardy!”.

“I’m just glad we were able to do it,” Smith said after his appearance in a “Jeopardy!” video interview. “And I was glad that I was able to show what I was capable of. Every moment I was there, that I moved from the third lectern to the champion’s lectern — I wanted to stay there as long as possible.”