Fab Melo’s cause of death is beginning to emerge, and it appears that the former Syracuse University star may have suffered a fate that have befallen a number of other young basketball players including another Boston Celtics player.
The 26-year-old, who played for Syracuse from 2010 to 2012 and was picked in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, was found dead in Brazil on Saturday. Reports indicated that Melo was found in his home.
As the New York Post and others reported, Fab Melo’s cause of death has not yet been pinpointed but it appears that he passed away in his sleep.
“According to a report from Brazil, the 7-foot center died in his sleep,” the New York Post noted. “He was living with his mother and two sisters.
The 7-foot center was selected by the Boston Celtics with No. 22 overall pick in the NBA Draft but had difficulty making the jump to the NBA. He was traded to the Grizzlies the following summer, but was waived and played in the NBA D-League before returning to his native Brazil.
Melo ran into some controversy during his college days, as he was declared ineligible before the 2012 NCAA Tournament due to academic performance. Melo claimed that he couldn’t understand English, the New York Post noted, and a later NCAA investigation found that Syracuse tried to have his grades changed so he could play. The NCAA later vacated 34 wins from Syracuse that year.
Even as the details of Fab Melo’s death were still emerging, many from the basketball world shared their condolences. His former Syracuse coach remembered Melo as a fantastic player who was sadly known for the scandal over his grades.
In his comments, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim noted that he didn’t know a cause of death for Fab Melo.
“We don’t know the cause yet,” Boeheim told ESPN. “It’s so hard right now, so hard to believe. It’s a sad, sad day.”
There were other unconfirmed reports that Fab Melo’s exact cause of death may have been a heart attack.
If the reports are true, then Fab Melo would join a number of other players whose lives were cut short early. The New Yorker noted in a 2011 article that the rate of sudden cardiac death (S.D.C.) is significantly higher among basketball players. The normal rate of S.D.C. for a young, health person is 1 in 200,000 to 1 in 250,000, the report noted.
The rate was close to 20 times higher for basketball players, the report noted.
“The rate of S.C.D. among N.C.A.A. athletes was about five times higher than where previous analyses had pinned it, and college-basketball players had the worst relative odds, one in eleven thousand,” the report noted. “All of the other sports investigated—swimming, lacrosse, football, and cross-country running—appeared to be two to four times safer.”
Melo is also one of three former Boston Celtics players to die before the age of 30, joining former top pick Len Bias in 1986 and Reggie Lewis in 1993. Like the initial reports indicate of Fab Melo, both Bias and Lewis died of heart failure. Bias died after a drug overdose, while Lewis collapsed at the age of 27.
Authorities in Brazil have not yet released an official cause of death for Fab Melo.
[Featured Image by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]