Sam Wyche, 74, who pushed the boundaries as an offensive innovator with the Cincinnati Bengals and challenged the NFL’s protocols along the way, died Thursday of melanoma, after a history of blood clots in his lungs and a heart transplant in 2016.
One of the Bengals’ original quarterbacks, Wyche was known for his offensive innovations as a coach. Wyche loved to push the envelope on offense and loved to go against standard wisdom. A Steelers assistant coach dubbed him “Wicky Wacky” for his go-against-the-grain mentality. He led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl during the 1988 season by using a no-huddle offense that forced the league to change its substitution rules.
David Stern, 77, who spent 30 years as the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner and one of the best in sports history, died Wednesday. Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 12 and underwent emergency surgery. The league said he died with his wife, Dianne, and their family at his bedside.
“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today,” Hall of Famer Michael Jordan said. “He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.”
Don Larsen, 90, the journeyman pitcher who reached the heights of baseball glory when he threw a perfect game in 1956 with the New York Yankees for the only no-hitter in World Series history, died Wednesday, while in hospice in Hayden, Idaho. The cause was esophageal cancer.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Thursday that Larsen’s perfect game has “remained unique for 63 years and counting. On a team of many stars, Don illustrated that anyone can make history — even perfection — on our sport’s biggest stage.”
Nick Gordon, 30, who was found liable in the death of his ex-girlfriend Bobbi Kristina Brown, has died. His attorney confirmed his client’s death Wednesday but did not give a cause of death or say where it occurred. Mr. Gordon’s brother, Jack Walker Jr., told People magazine that he died Wednesday in Florida after a suspected drug overdose. Mr. Gordon’s death came nearly five years after Brown, 22, the daughter of singers Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, was found face-down and unresponsive in a bathtub in January 2015. She died after six months in a coma. Her family blamed Mr. Gordon, accusing him in a lawsuit of giving her a “toxic cocktail” before putting her face-down in the water. He was never charged, but he was found responsible in the wrongful-death lawsuit, and an Atlanta judge ordered him to pay $36 million to Brown’s estate.
Sonny Mehta, 77, the Indian-born, Cambridge-educated editor who for more than 30 years presided over Alfred A. Knopf and the New York publishing scene courting critical acclaim and profits with a lineup of books that included works by a stable of Nobel laureates, the memoirs of presidents and prime ministers, and page-turning crime and love stories, died Monday in Manhattan of complications from pneumonia.
Admired if not universally loved, and feared if only by competitors who knew the extent of his acumen, Mehta reigned for years as one of the most powerful figures in book publishing. With the bestowal of the Knopf emblem, the coursing Borzoi dog that has long served as an imprimatur of literary quality, he conferred on a book almost instant cachet.
Syd Mead, 86, a designer whose wide-ranging work included envisioning vehicles of the future as well as helping to shape the look of environments in movies like “Blade Runner,” “Tron” and “Aliens,” died on Monday at his home in Pasadena, California. The cause was lymphoma.
Mead started out in the car business, designing for Ford. His first movie credit was in 1979 on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”; he was part of the special-effects team and credited as a “production illustrator.” Three years later for “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s film version of a Philip K. Dick novel about a bounty hunter who tracks down humanoid “replicants,” he was “visual futurist.”
Mead had a reputation for doing thorough research and making educated guesses about what was to come. A good Mead design looked amazing, but it also looked plausible.
Fred Graham, 88, who covered the Supreme Court and momentous legal affairs such as the Watergate scandal for The New York Times, CBS News and Court TV, died Dec. 28 at his Washington, D.C., home of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his wife, Skila Harris.
He was a co-founder of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an organization created to protect journalists’ First Amendment rights. “Graham was instrumental in creating the organization that we are today,” said the committee’s chairman, Stephen J. Adler, and in “ensuring that legal reporters have the legal support they need.”
A Fulbright scholar and Oxford graduate, Graham won a Peabody Award, for his coverage of the Watergate scandal, and three Emmy awards.
Jack Sheldon, 88, an accomplished jazz trumpeter who also had a successful parallel career as an actor — but whose most widely heard work may have been as a vocalist on the animated television series “Schoolhouse Rock!” — died on Dec. 27. No further information was available.
Anyone who grew up learning about grammar, arithmetic and civics by watching the ingenious short musical cartoons known as “Schoolhouse Rock!” knows Sheldon’s voice, if not his name: He sang two of that series’ most memorable ditties, “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill.”
Don Imus, 79, the radio personality whose career was made and then undone by his acid tongue during a decades-long rise to stardom and an abrupt public plunge after a nationally broadcast racial slur, died Dec. 27 at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, after being hospitalized since Christmas Eve. The cause was complications from lung disease.
Sleepy LaBeef, 84, an early and enduring rockabilly artist who helped fuel a resurgence of that genre in the 1970s and ’80s, especially with his propulsive live shows, died Dec. 26 at his home in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. A cause was not given.
Sue Lyon, 73 — who at 14 was cast in the title role of Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita,” a film version of Vladimir Nabokov’s eyebrow-raising novel about a middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl — died Dec. 26 in Los Angeles. She accumulated more than two dozen film and television credits from 1959 to 1980, but she was known primarily for “Lolita.”
May Stevens, 95, painter who for more than 60 years devoted her art to political causes like the civil-rights, anti-war and feminist movements, died Dec. 9 at an assisted-living facility in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The cause was Alzheimer’s disease. She was part of a generation of activist artists that also included her husband, Rudolf Baranik, and their friends Leon Golub and Nancy Spero.