The sports world has been left stunned by the death of Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman at age 43 after a four-year battle with colon cancer.
A statement was posted to his Instagram page, revealing the star passed away at home with his wife and family by his side, shocking the world as the actor hadn’t publicly spoken about his diagnosis.
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“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” the message read.”
“Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”
While many were introduced to Boseman through his portrayal of King T’Challa in Black Panther, his career also had him develop close ties to the sporting world.
In the film 42, Boseman played Jackie Robinson, the first African American player to playing in the Major League Baseball and broke the sport’s colour barrier.
His death came on August 28, which was the day baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, having been moved from April 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking after the release of 42, Boseman was asked about what it meant to play Robinson.
“I am proud to play Jackie Robinson,” he said. “And I feel like those (racial) barriers will eventually come down. They will come down. And I‘m glad that I’m continuing that tradition of expanding people’s barriers.
“I think that‘s why you do the movie. You have to show the sickness or expose the sickness in order to get rid of it.”
The Jackie Robinson Foundation also released a statement.
“Preparing for his starring role in 42, he studied extensively and spent considerable time with Rachel Robinson,” the statement read.
“A consummate professional, he absorbed every story, every memory and ever photo and film excerpt he could consume to help translate the soul of an American hero. And now, Chadwick will be etched in history as a hero in his own right, especially having shown millions of Black and Brown children the power of a superhero who looks like them. Chadwick — way you rest in peace eternally. Take your place among the greats. You earned it.”
Boseman also played Vontae Mack in NFL film Draft Day and Floyd Little in 2008’s The Express, as well as being an active NBA fan, even judging the 2020 slam dunk contest and being pulled into it as a participant in 2018, helping NBA star Victor Oladipo pull on a Black Panther mask before the Pacers star pulled off a dunk.
The outpouring of grief from the sporting world was immediate.
Oladipo posted: “Smh it’s just to much going on right now……. R.I.H”.
Golden Star Warriors star Klay Thompson wrote: “Rest in power @chadwickboseman! Your legacy will live forever. 2020 man, been a tough one”.
Atlanta Hawks star and All-Star Trae Young posted: “Just met you for the first time at all star … never stopped having this smile on your face.”
Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum tweeted “RIP legend”, while Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love added “It’ can’t be”.
This was just a small fraction of the tributes from the NBA.
Boseman also contributed to a tribute video to Kobe Bryant after his death in a helicopter crash in January, and despite not being closely aquantined with the basketball legend, spoke of how deeply the loss impacted him.
“Your life has meant so much to so many people,” Boseman said.
“I can’t even put into words how much cause I didn’t even know; I didn’t know how much it meant. I knew I loved Kobe, but I didn’t know I loved him as much as I did.”
The same could be said about Chadwick Boseman himself. Rest in peace.