‘Jeopardy!’: Brayden Smith Was the Final Champ of the Alex Trebek Era – Here’s What the Iconic Host Had to Say About Him

Late 'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek
Late ‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

The announcement tonight of the surprising death of five-time Jeopardy! champion Brayden Smith seemingly reopens the scab the show’s fans felt at hearing of Alex Trebek’s death. The young man was looking forward to playing in the Tournament of Champions, which he qualified for with his five-game win.

Smith was the legendary quiz show host’s final champ; losing him is a reminder once again of the loss of Trebek as well.

In remembrance of this extraordinary player, here’s how Trebek felt about Smith and his effortless game play.

The death of Smith was announced today

According to The New York Post, Smith, 24, died suddenly last Friday in Las Vegas, NV, where he lived.

Jeopardy! retweeted a post from Smith’s family, adding the sentiment, “The ‘Jeopardy!’ family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith. He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden’s family. He will be missed.”

Affectionately known as “Alex’s Last Great Champion,” Smith’s obituary stated that competing on Jeopardy! had been his life-long dream and that the talented player had been eager to take part in the Tournament of Champions.

Smith graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas last year and had planned on attending law school. Surviving him are his parents and three brothers. He had recently interned for the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., researching criminal justice reform cases.

Smith’s death came just 3 months after Trebek’s

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The Jeopardy! champ’s death took place almost three months after the show’s host who died on Nov. 8, 2020.

The game show icon died at age 80 after living almost two years with advanced cancer of the pancreas. He announced his diagnosis in March 2019.

Trebek wrote in his 2020 memoir, The Answer Is… that he preferred to be “introduced as the host rather than the star” of the game show.

Despite being at the helm of the program for nearly four decades, the father of three felt “you could replace me as the host of the show with anybody and it would likely be just as popular. Hell, after thirty-six years with me, it might even be more popular.”

Trebek was ‘energized’ by Smith

EW quoted Mike Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy! as saying of Smith, “[Trebek] did, I believe, really like Brayden. I could tell that he very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch. I think that energized him.”

Smith was just as in awe of the late host, saying after his winning streak on the show, “The best part of it for me was spending time with [Trebek]. Doing the questions and answers is almost incidental, I think, to spending time with somebody who I had cherished in my life for such a long period of time.

“I think back on it all the time and really savor each moment that I got to have with him,” he said.