Drew Gordon, ex-UCLA player and brother of Nuggets star Aaron Gordon, dies in crash

UCLA's Drew Gordon goes up for a dunk during a basketball game against USC
UCLA's Drew Gordon goes up for a dunk in a game against USC on Feb. 4, 2009. Gordon, who also played for New Mexico and the Philadelphia 76ers, died Thursday in a vehicle crash. He was 33. (Jeff Lewis / Associated Press)

Drew Gordon, a former UCLA and New Mexico player who went on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, died Thursday in a crash while driving a three-wheeled vehicle in Portland, Ore., according to authorities. He was 33.

Gordon, who grew up in San Jose and was a McDonald's All-American at Archbishop Mitty High School, was involved in a two-vehicle crash on South Springwater Road near South Stevens Road in Clackamas County, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said Friday in a news release. Deputies were dispatched shortly after 1 p.m.

Gordon, an Oregon City resident, was the driver of a Vanderhall Carmel three-wheeled autocycle, the Sheriff's Office said. He died at the scene. The other vehicle was a GMC Sierra pickup; its driver, Rodrigo Navarro Quinor of Oregon City, and a passenger were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Sheriff's Office.

A preliminary investigation indicated that Gordon's vehicle crossed the center line and collided with the other vehicle, the Sheriff's Office said, and that impairment doesn't appear to be a factor at this time. The crash is still under investigation.

Gordon played two seasons each for the Bruins and Lobos before a professional career that also included stints in the NBA's G League and numerous leagues overseas.

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His younger brother, Aaron Gordon, is a starting forward for the Denver Nuggets. Drew Gordon was in attendance for a number of Nuggets games this season.

"Drew was far too young to leave this world, but his legacy will live on through his three beautiful children and all of his loved ones," the Nuggets posted on X on Thursday night. "Our hearts are with Aaron and the Gordon family during this extremely difficult time."

As a freshman at UCLA during the 2008-09 season, the 6-foot-9 Gordon averaged 3.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 34 games off the bench. He was the Bruins' starting center for the first six games of his sophomore season — averaging 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and two blocks a game — before leaving the program abruptly upon mutual agreement after butting heads with then-coach Ben Howland.

"Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Drew Gordon, a former UCLA forward who has passed away at the age of 33," the UCLA men's basketball program posted on X on Thursday night.

Gordon transferred to New Mexico and found his fit with the Lobos, starting in 53 of his 61 games and averaging 13.4 points and 10.8 rebounds over two seasons.

“I’m just in a better place,” Gordon, then a senior, told The Times in November 2011. “I loved my teammates at UCLA; I love my teammates here, and playing for [coach] Steve Alford is one of the best experiences I could possibly have."

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The New Mexico men's basketball program posted on X on Thursday night: "We are heartbroken over the passing of Drew Gordon. A two-time all-conference forward, he helped lead us to the 2012 Mountain West title."

Gordon went undrafted out of college but landed with the 76ers organization, which posted its condolences to Gordon's family and friends Friday morning.

During the 2014-15 season, Gordon played nine games with the 76ers, averaging 1.9 points and two rebounds in 7.9 minutes a game. In 41 games with the organization's G League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, he averaged 13 points and 10.6 rebounds in 32.9 minutes a game.

Gordon also played 35 games for the Brooklyn Nets G League affiliate in Long Island during the 2018-19 season, averaging 7.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 16.1 minutes a game.

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"Drew Gordon was my roommate, one of the best teammates I've ever had, and my brother for life," Gideon Gamble, who played with Gordon on the Blue Coats, posted on X. "He encouraged me when I wasn't active and was excited for me whenever I did have good games. His wonderful family, Parents and Wife, treated me like family. My [heart] goes out to them."

Gordon's basketball career took him around the world and included All-Star stints in Italy and Russia. He was playing for BC Budivelnyk Kyiv in early 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. According to a 2022 ESPN Andscape article, Gordon left the area with his wife, Angela, and their family — which at the time included 3-year-old Zayne and 3-month-old Brody — to reside in Denver near his brother and their parents.

"Me and my family have literally been able to travel the world and see things that most people wouldn’t be able to see, whether it be one of the big cities in Russia or Turkey or France, Greece, you name it," Gordon told ESPN Andscape. "We’ve been able to go and be a part of that culture and that lifestyle.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.