The tragic, coronavirus-related death of a member of the NBA family

Chris Haynes
·9 min read

Noordin Said, a beloved security official to NBA players and numerous musical artists, died Tuesday in New York after contracting COVID-19, his daughter confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

Said’s mother, Anezia Clemons, who lived with him in New York, also died from COVID-19 approximately seven hours before her 56-year-old son, who died at 1:32 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

“I still can’t believe it,” Said’s daughter Samantha told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t believe it. It’s so unreal. You don’t realize how bad this virus is until it hits home. We thought my grandmother passing was kind of taking one for the team. It was almost like she was saying, ‘Take me instead of my son.’ But no … the virus attacked my dad’s lungs really bad, and that was the issue.”

NBA star DeMarcus Cousins first hired Noordin Said to be his personal security guard in 2015 during All-Star weekend in New York. From there, the two hit it off, and Said worked the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2017 All-Star weekend in New Orleans at Cousins’ side.

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green hired Said to be his personal security guard during the 2018 playoffs, and Said worked this season with Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo at most home games.

Said was not employed by the teams, but worked for the players individually.

He also worked with Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Cardi B, T.I., Young Jeezy, Fabolous, Migos and Jim Jones.

Said had been experiencing body aches, fatigue and extreme, continuous hiccups for the past three weeks. He died at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Cousins was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23, and that was the last time he recalled speaking with Said. Cousins sent him a text message last week, but didn’t receive a response.

Noordin Said with Draymond Green after the Warriors won the 2018 NBA championship. (Courtesy of Samantha Said)
Noordin Said with Draymond Green after the Warriors won the 2018 NBA championship. (Courtesy of Samantha Said)

“I was heartbroken,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports of hearing the news of his friend’s passing. “It sucks, especially losing a guy like him. He’s an A-1, first-class-type dude. Anybody he’s ever come in contact with, all you heard was good reviews. He’s just a good, genuine dude. He took his job seriously, did it with class, did it with the best of his abilities, super professional, and the family man in him would give you advice on the daily. He was an OG at the same time. This hurts. It was a bad situation. There wasn’t much you could do. All you could do was sit from afar and hope and pray for the best. And that’s what we did.”

It all happened so fast.

On March 8, Samantha — a Siena College student in Latham, New York — returned home to Brooklyn for spring break to stay with her mom. This was three days before the NBA suspended its season because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Noordin Said and his mother were not feeling well. He notified family that it would be best if they didn’t pay them any visits, at least until they felt better. His mother was later tested for the coronavirus and the results came back positive. However, Samantha said her grandmother was sent home to quarantine because she didn’t have any respiratory issues aside from a cough and a fever. She returned to the hospital days later.

Said tried to get tested when the league was suspended, but according to Samantha, he was denied due to lack of symptoms. Eventually his condition worsened, and the hiccups became unbearable.

The evening of March 29, Samantha and her mother researched remedies for hiccups, and read that Benadryl was an option because it is an antihistamine. Said asked Samantha if she could bring the medicine to his home.

“I left it outside the door and I stood across the street because I was so paranoid,” Samantha told Yahoo Sports. “I watched him come down and get it. He said thank you, I love you and that was it. He went back inside. The hiccups never went away.”

The next day at 5:30 a.m., Said informed his family that he was going to the hospital because he feared he might be experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.

“At first the EMT people were discouraging him,” she said. “They were saying, ‘Well, if you go to the hospital, it’s going to be a long wait.’ And my aunt was like, ‘No, he can’t breathe and he clearly needs the oxygen. He’s going.’”

Once at the ER, he waited several hours before being admitted to the hospital. Said was placed on a ventilator on March 30, and on April 1 he started to show improvement. But on April 4, things took a turn for the worse, and he grew weaker and weaker.

Samantha said communication from the hospital suddenly ceased.

Noordin Said with his daughter Samantha. (Courtesy of Samantha Said)
Noordin Said with his daughter Samantha. (Courtesy of Samantha Said)

“Once my father [was too weak] and couldn’t call us anymore, it was hard to get in touch with him,” she told Yahoo Sports. “My brother — Noordin Jr. — was the one who was making the phone calls. … I understand they were understaffed, but when you have a family member in ICU by themselves and you can’t go see them on a ventilator, that s--- is terrifying. My brother was calling and nobody answered. They would tell us to stop calling, but they wouldn’t give us updates. … We always never had the accurate information.”

On the morning of April 6, Noordin Jr. was finally able to reach someone at the hospital. It came with a disturbing update.

“After another 30 times calling, he finally gets through and they just said, ‘Oh yeah, you should come say goodbye to your father,’” Samantha said. “My brother ran outside going crazy and calling all of us. He called my mom screaming, crying, heartbroken. I heard it, it woke me up and I was like, ‘No way. I don’t want to hear that.’ Me and my sisters were all in denial.”

The entire family drove to the hospital, where Said was intubated and in the ICU in critical but stable condition. Because the facility was treating numerous COVID-19 patients, the family was allowed in only one at a time to see him. The hospital normally doesn’t allow visitors to see coronavirus patients until hours before the patient is expected to pass.

Samantha couldn’t do it.

“My brother went in and he FaceTimed us all and the tears just ran down our faces,” she said. “We were a mess. We were saying, ‘Daddy fight.’

“I couldn’t go in by myself. That was too much to face. My father is my world, my best friend. I would have had an anxiety attack and then they would have had to take off my mask and then I would have been put at risk. And I know my dad wouldn’t want that.”

The family was told that if Said made it through the night, they would be allowed to visit again the next day. Hoping for a miracle, another blow came their way as soon as they arrived home.

Grandma had died at age 74. Her 75th birthday would have been Friday.

Noordin Said died from complications soon after. His family lost two integral figures within hours of each other.

“This could have been prevented, but because he could not go to the hospital or go to the emergency room and be taken seriously [sooner] because the CDC decided there was a certain criteria you had to fit, he could have been saved four or five days before he ended up on the ventilator. And by the time he got to the emergency room, it was too late,” said Noorhayati Said, Noordin’s 51-year-old sister. “My brother went for help, and that’s when he could have been saved. If he would have gotten tested 10 days before he experienced symptoms, that could have saved him and my mother, and I think that’s the case for many other families.”

Making matters worse, Samantha said the hospital lost all of Said’s personal belongings.

“iPhone, Louis Vuitton wallet, Apple Watch, grey sweatsuit and sneakers, gone,” Samantha said.

Noordin Said working with musician T.I. (Courtesy of Samantha Said)
Noordin Said working with musician T.I. (Courtesy of Samantha Said)

The bodies of Said and his mother are in upstate New York preparing to be cremated. The last time Samantha saw her father in person was when she took the Benadryl to his house.

“This virus is real,” Samantha told Yahoo Sports. “People are dying out there. If you have asthma or breathing problems, you need to really take this even more seriously. Everyone needs to stay inside and social-distance themselves. This s--- is real. It’s crazy. My dad was fighting for a week and then he had to go to the hospital and then the virus took over his lungs. Everyone needs to stop thinking this is all fun and games. If you need to go outside, go for essential needs. This virus is taking over.”

Players and entertainers have offered their support on social media for Said’s family. Cousins, Green, Rondo, Kevin Durant and Cousins’ manager, Andrew Rodgers, reached out to the family to offer their condolences. Samantha said the family is touched by the outpouring.

Said is remembered as a loving, loyal, no-nonsense, good-humored man who will be dearly missed.

“That laugh is what I’ll always remember,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “He had the funniest laugh. His whole body kind of jiggled with it. That was my guy.

“But I just feel like we have to understand the monster that we’re dealing with. Regardless of your beliefs, regardless of what you think is real and not real, it’s time to be selfless. It’s time to think about the next person. Maybe it doesn’t affect you directly, but it can affect the next person because of you. Just be smart, be selfless and let's just do this together. It’s only going to help at the end of the day and it’s going to speed up the process. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a billion or a dollar a week, we’re all affected by this and we just need to take it serious and figure it out.”

In addition to Samantha and Noordin Jr., Said is survived by two more children: Mija and Gabriela.

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