Nick Gilbert, son of Dan Gilbert, dies at the age of 26

He'd suffered from neurofibromatosis, which has no known cure

The bowtie emblem that appeared on Cleveland Cavaliers warmups and throughout the arena last year. - Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers
The bowtie emblem that appeared on Cleveland Cavaliers warmups and throughout the arena last year.

Nick Gilbert, son of Rocket Mortgage and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, passed away Saturday at the age of 26.

He was born with neurofibromatosis, a disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and which has no cure, and had survived multiple major brain surgeries since being diagnosed at 15 months old.

“He was loved and cherished by many people including : his parents, Daniel Gilbert and Jennifer Gilbert; his siblings, Grant of Gracie, AJ and Nash Gilbert; his grandparents, Shirley, Samuel Gilbert, Murk Goddard, Pamela and Robert Feldman; and his aunts and uncles, Gary (Charlotte Gilbert), Kevin (Robin Goddard), Andrea Gilbert, Richard (Patti Gilbert), Paul (Desiree Marz) and Alicia Fox. He was also cherished by many loving cousins, friends, and devoted doctors, nurses, and caregivers,” an obituary reads.

Wearing a bow tie that would become a trademark and an emblem for his efforts to raise money to fight NF, a young 14-year-old Gilbert was introduced to the public in 2011 when he was sent as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rep for the NBA Draft. After watching the ping pong balls fall Cleveland’s way, Gilbert — with his infectious smile, positivity, and sense of humor — became a fan favorite and the team’s good luck charm.

“What's not to like?” — Gilbert’s answer on the broadcast that evening when asked what it felt like to be his dad’s personal hero — became a team marketing slogan, but it also represented his view on life, even one with NF.

“Look at the bright side of everything,” he told the PD in 2011 when asked what advice he would give to someone with the disorder, which affects 1 in every 3,000 people.

The Cavs last October announced the team was dedicating the 2022-2023 season to Gilbert, with the bow tie emblem appearing on warm-up jerseys and throughout Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse as it embarked on a campaign to raise further awareness and funds.

“We want to give a special thanks to Cleveland fans for always embracing Nick and showing him support and love over the years,” Dan Gilbert said in a statement before the season began. “This season, we’re using the Cavs platform to raise awareness of NF and the millions who are impacted by this disease. While there’s currently no cure, we hope to help support cutting-edge research through our efforts. So, as you cheer on the Cavs this season, we ask that you keep Nick and all those fighting NF in your hearts.”

The Gilberts in 2017 founded NF Forward, a nonprofit dedicated to finding a cure for neurofibromatosis.

Originally published by our sister paper Cleveland Scene. It is republished here with permission.

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