How Jeopardy! Honored Brayden Smith During Annual Tournament Of Champions

“Jeopardy!” honored Brayden Smith in the sweetest way during the annual Tournament of Champions. The 24-year-old Smith died in February 2021 after complications from surgery. The young “Jeopardy!” contestant won $115,798 during his five-game winning streak, per The New York Times, and had qualified for the tournament.

Smith died on February 5, just three months after “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died on Nov. 8, 2020. A few days after Brayden’s death, his mother, Debbie Smith, tweeted, “We are so grateful that Brayden was able to live out his dream on @jeopardy.”

Smith was one of Trebek’s biggest fans; the young contestant was thrilled to be on the quiz show, alongside the iconic host. “To finally be on stage with somebody that I’ve seen five nights a week every week for over a decade was really a dream come true,” Smith told the show’s correspondent Sarah Whitcomb Foss in January 2021 (via People). Keep reading to learn how “Jeopardy!” honored Smith during the Tournament of Champions.

Brayden Smith was special to 'Jeopardy!' fans

Brayden Smith wasn’t able to compete in the Tournament of Champions, but the game show honored him in a touching way. Guest host Buzzy Cohen paid tribute to the young contestant in May 2021, saying during a Tournament of Champions episode, “You’ve now met all 15 of the players who qualified for the Tournament of Champions — well, almost all. Brayden Smith, the incredible young man who won five shows and $115,000 in January, passed away earlier this year.” Cohen went on to share with viewers that Smith’s family created a charitable fund in his name, and the show donated to it. “We want to express our best wishes and condolences to his family,” the guest host said.

Smith’s mother, Debbie Smith, was moved by the quiz show’s tribute to her late son. She tweeted, “Our family is deeply touched by @Jeopardy’s ToC tribute to Brayden and its pledge to support the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund. What a formidable group of Champs. Brayden would feel honored to be counted among you.” 

The young contestant was a fan favorite, and he was special to Alex Trebek, who nicknamed Smith “Billy Buzzsaw” because he hit the buzzer so quickly, according to Deadline. “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards told Entertainment Weekly, “I could tell that [Trebek] very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch. I think that energized him. It was like, ‘That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m putting myself through this.'”

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