Flashback to the 2018 dunk contest, when the late Chadwick Boseman assisted Victor Oladipo moments before his « Black Panther » tribute dunk. (0:42)
LOS ANGELES — Actor Chadwick Boseman, who starred as Black icon Jackie Robinson in « 42 » before rising to fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, died Friday of cancer, his representative said.
Boseman’s death came as Major League Baseball observed Jackie Robinson Day, with teams celebrating the man who broke the sport’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Jackie Robinson Day is usually April 15, but the celebration was moved to Aug. 28 this season to accommodate the COVID-19-altered season, which started in late July.
In an interview after « 42 » was released in 2013, Boseman was asked what it meant to play Robinson and whether he thought the movie would continue conversations about racial injustice.
« 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. »
Major League Baseball issued a statement following Boseman’s death, and tributes from the sports world poured in across social media Friday night.
We are devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in « 42 » will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/8oU7QpdLSE
The Jackie Robinson Foundation praised Boseman « as a consummate professional » who « absorbed every story, every memory, and every photo and film excerpt he could consume to help translate the soul of an American hero. »
After « 42, » Boseman appeared in « Draft Day » the following year, playing the role of an NFL prospect whom the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, played by Kevin Costner, was considering drafting.
In February, Boseman was a judge during the much-discussed dunk contest as part of NBA All-Star Weekend. Two years earlier at the same event, he helped Victor Oladipo put on a Black Panther mask before the Indiana Pacers star converted a dunk while wearing it.
Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist, Nicki Fioravante, said. Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.
« A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much, » his family said in the statement. « 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. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. »
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