Derek Smith Cause of Death: The Heartbreaking End of a Basketball Star

Derek Smith was an American basketball player who won a national championship with the Louisville Cardinals in 1980 and played nine seasons in the NBA. He was also an assistant coach for the Washington Bullets from 1994 to 1996. He died at the age of 34 in 1996, apparently of a heart attack. What was the derek smith cause of death? How did the basketball star’s life end so tragically?

A Promising Career Cut Short

Derek Smith was born on November 1, 1961, in Hogansville, Georgia. He moved to Philadelphia as a teenager and met John Whitehead, who became his lifelong friend and musical partner. They formed a group called the Epsilons, which was discovered and managed by Otis Redding until his tragic death in 1967. They then signed with the Philadelphia International label, run by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and became successful songwriters and producers for many artists, such as the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Intruders. They wrote classic songs such as “Back Stabbers”, “Wake Up Everybody”, and “I’ll Always Love My Mama”.

He attended the University of Louisville from 1979 to 1982. He was a member of the 1980 University of Louisville Cardinals basketball team which won the NCAA championship, defeating UCLA He was selected 35th overall, 13th in the second round, by the Golden State Warriors in the 1982 NBA draft. He played for the Warriors, the San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers, the Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Boston Celtics. He averaged 22 points per game in 1984–85 and 23.5 points per game in 1985–86, but his career was hampered by a severe knee injury and other health problems. He retired from playing in 1991, after scoring over 5,000 points in the NBA.

He became an assistant coach for the Washington Bullets in 1994, working under his former teammate Jim Lynam. He was well-liked and respected by the players and the staff, and was considered a potential head coach in the future.

A Mysterious and Tragic Death

Derek Smith died on August 9, 1996, on board the MS Norwegian Dream, a cruise ship that was hosting a farewell cocktail party for the Bullets staff and their families. He was found unconscious in his cabin by his wife, Monica, and was pronounced dead by the ship’s doctor. The exact circumstances of his death are still unclear and disputed.

His death shocked and saddened the basketball world, especially his former teammates, coaches, and friends. He was remembered as a talented and hard-working player, a loyal and generous friend, and a loving and devoted husband and father. He left behind his wife, two sons, and a daughter. He was buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.


Derek Smith was a basketball legend who achieved fame and glory as a player and a coach. He was part of the 1980 NCAA champions, and one of the best scorers in the NBA. He died at a young age, of a heart attack or possibly another cause, leaving behind a legacy of excellence and inspiration.