Jeopardy! airs "in loving memory" tribute to 24-year-old former champ Brayden Smith

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Brayden Smith
Brayden Smith

Today’s installment of Jeopardy!—currently working its way through its annual Tournament of Champions, with guest host Buzzy Cohen at the podium—took time off for a somber note. The long-running game show (which is still finding its footing in the wake of Alex Trebek’s death late last year) paused to offer a tribute to a contestant who, by all rights, should have been competing in this year’s tourney, which regularly highlights the show’s most successful players: 24-year-old five-time champion Brayden Smith.

We reported on the death of Smith (the final long-streak champion of Trebek’s tenure on the show) back in February; later reports suggested that he ultimately died of complications from surgery. The Ringer, in its discussion of this year’s tournament, notes that this is actually the third time in recent years that a player who would have qualified for the tournament died before it could be filmed: Cindy Stowell died in 2016, shortly before her six-win streak was broadcast, while Teachers’ Tournament champion Larry Martin died of pancreatic cancer in 2019.

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Cohen announced that Jeopardy! will be donating to a fund established in Smith’s name by his family, which is “is dedicated to furthering the educational aspirations of southern Nevada students,” like himself. Smith’s episodes were originally aired back in January; he ended up winning $115,798 on the show, and a nickname from Trebek for his lightning fast reflexes: Billy Buzzsaw.