Dustin Diamond, 'Saved by the Bell' star, dead at 44

Dustin Diamond, best known for playing nerdy sidekick Samuel “Screech” Powers in Saved by the Bell, has died, just weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 44.

“We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma,” the actor’s team tells Yahoo Entertainment. “He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful.”

The former child star was hospitalized less than a month ago with an unknown, but “serious” illness. Tests determined Diamond had stage IV small cell carcinoma cancer. He underwent chemotherapy.

Diamond’s Saved by the Bell co-stars, Mario Lopez and Tiffani Thiessen, expressed condolences, both noting how fragile life is.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack Morris in the coming-of-age sitcom, called Diamond “a true comedic genius.” Their co-star, Elizabeth Berkley, also commented.

Tori Spelling, who guest-starred as Diamond’s on-screen love interest, shared an emotional tribute. She remembered how the actor welcomed her “with open arms onto the set of Saved by the Bell.”

Diamond portrayed Screech for 13 years in various Saved by the Bell iterations, including, Good Morning, Miss Bell, Saved by the Bell: The New Class and Saved by the Bell: The College Years. He did not reprise the role in NBC’s recent reboot. The actor also appeared in a handful of reality television shows: Celebrity Fit Club, The Weakest Link, Celebrity Boxing 2 and Celebrity Big Brother. He toured as a stand-up comedian for more than a decade.

Diamond made headlines off-screen, too. He served three months in jail for stabbing a man during a 2014 bar fight in Wisconsin and faced other legal troubles. In 2006, he released a sex tape. He later revealed he was embarrassed over that decision and said it actually featured a stunt double.

The actor’s management team, who worked with Diamond for 21 years, note in Monday’s statement he was never “intentionally malevolent.”

“It goes without saying that our relationship cannot be categorized exclusively as business. He has become a larger part of our everyday life: A part of our family and friend circle. We are aware that Dustin is not considered reputable by most. He’s had a history of mishaps, of unfortunate events,” the statement reads. “We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malevolent. He — much like the rest of those who act out and behave poorly — had undergone a great deal of turmoil and heartache.”

While his team calls some actions “rebukable,” they note his behavior “stemmed from loss and the lack of knowledge on how to process that pain properly.”

“In actuality, Dustin was a humorous and high-spirited individual whose greatest passion was to make others laugh,” Diamond’s team adds. “He was able to sense and feel other peoples’ emotions to such a length that he was able to feel them too — a strength and a flaw, all in one.

“Dustin Diamond was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored. We are thankful he trusted us enough to share his genuine, authentic self with our team,” the statement concludes. “We wish you knew him in the way that we did. We please ask that you give room for privacy to our team and Mr. Diamond’s family during this tragic time, as we grieve and remember the memories spent together. This loss is as much stinging as it is sudden.”

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