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City Street Named in Honor of Late NBA Journalist, Grand Rapids Native Sekou Smith

Sekou Smith's legacy is honored by the city of Grand Rapids in recent move by the City Commission. Smith and his career have been commemorated by a growing number of institutions since his passing in 2021.

/Justin Mills

Residents of Grand Rapids will find a new area of Auburn Avenue SE, from Wealthy Street to Lake Drive, renamed to honor the late NBA journalist and Grand Rapids native Sekou Smith.

An analyst on NBA TV and active writer on, Sekou Smith tragically passed away at age 48 on Jan. 26, 2021, after compilations with COVID-19.

Smith was born and raised with his siblings on this block of Auburn Avenue SE. While his impressive career in sports journalism took him around the country, Grand Rapids served as his hometown and launching pad.

The Grand Rapids City Commission approved the family-led commemorative effort to rename his hometown street on Dec. 5. 

A Grand Rapids Public Schools High School, Central High (now named Innovation Central High), served as his initial educational roots before he went to Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to begin his college career. Smith graduated college in Mississippi after he transferred from GRCC to complete his degree at Jackson State University.

Well-respected within sports journalism, he sparked national praise and remembrance after his passing, leading to a multitude of commemorations in addition to street renaming.

In 2021, Jackson State University established a scholarship in Smith’s honor named “The Sekou Smith Journalism Award” to help young people gain better access to higher education. The NBA then established an internship awarded annually to a student attending a historically black college or university. 

Before his days at the NBA, Smith wrote at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he reported on the Atlanta Hawks. In remembrance of Smith, the Atlanta Hawks renamed and dedicated their press room after him. Smith also wrote at other local news outlets like the Indianapolis Star and the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss. 

The street name of Auburn Avenue SE or mailing addresses will not officially change, but commemorative signage will be installed in 2024, presenting the city block as Sekou Smith Way.

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