Derek Smith (basketball)

Derek Ervin Smith (November 1, 1961 – August 9, 1996) was an American professional basketball player. He won a national championship with the Louisville Cardinals in 1980, and spent nine years in the NBA in a career shortened by a knee injury. He would later become an assistant coach for the Washington Bullets from 1994 until his death.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith 1986-87.jpg
Smith, circa 1986
Personal information
Born(1961-11-01)November 1, 1961
Hogansville, Georgia
DiedAugust 10, 1996(1996-08-10) (aged 34)
On board MS Norwegian Dream
Listed height6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High schoolHogansville (Hogansville, Georgia)
CollegeLouisville (1978–1982)
NBA draft1982 / Round: 2 / Pick: 35th overall
Selected by the Golden State Warriors
Playing career1982–1991
PositionShooting guard / Small forward
Number41, 18, 21, 43
Coaching career1994–1996
Career history
As player:
1982–1983Golden State Warriors
19831986San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers
19861989Sacramento Kings
19891990Philadelphia 76ers
1990–1991Boston Celtics
As coach:
19941996Washington Bullets (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points5,232 (12.8 ppg)
Rebounds1,300 (3.2 rpg)
Assists866 (2.1 apg)
Stats at


Smith 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 59–54.

Smith is sometimes credited with popularizing the term "high five" during the 1979–80 basketball season.[1]

Smith was selected 35th overall, 13th in the second round, by the Golden State Warriors in the 1982 NBA draft. He played for the Los Angeles Clippers from 1983 to 1986. He averaged 22 points per game in 1984–85. In the next season, he averaged 23.5 points per game, but was limited to 11 games[2] because of a knee injury followed by mononucleosis.[3] He played for the Sacramento Kings from 1986 to 1989, for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1989 and 1990, and the Boston Celtics in 1991. During his NBA career he scored over 5,000 points.

Smith became an assistant coach for the Washington Bullets in 1994.


In August 1996, Smith went on a cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship MS Dreamward for season ticketholders of the Bullets and the Washington Capitals. He took his family along. Smith and then-Bullets player Tim Legler volunteered to hold basketball clinics during the cruise.

On August 9, 1996, while the ship was near Bermuda and returning to New York City, Derek Smith suddenly suffered an apparent massive heart attack during a farewell cocktail party in the presence of members of his team. Ship medics attempted to resuscitate him for 25 minutes before declaring him dead.

Smith was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. His funeral was attended by the Bullets team and several former teammates.[4][5]


Derek was married to Monica (who has since remarried) had two children; a daughter, Sydney, and a son, Nolan. Nolan played college basketball for the Duke Blue Devils and was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers. Like his father 30 years before him, Nolan made it to the Final Four of the 2010 NCAA D-I tournament and he and his Duke Blue Devils won the 2010 National Championship just as his father did in 1980. Nolan has a tattoo of his father on his right arm.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jack Welch (December 2000). "50 Things Every Louisvillian Should Know". Louisville Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
  2. ^ Derek Smith. basketball-reference.
  3. ^ Sam McManis. "Mononucleosis Stops Derek Smith; Clippers Win". Los Angeles Times. March 13, 1986. Sports, 3.
  4. ^ Mitch Lawrence (September 1, 1996). "Death of a Driven Man – Derek Smith's Mysterious Passing Claims True Competitor". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 3, 2010.
  5. ^ "Outside the Lines – Smith Following In Father's Footsteps". ESPN. March 31, 2010. Archived from the original on April 3, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2010.

External linksEdit