Jeopardy! once again hosted its Tournament of Champions in 2021, though there was a reason to mourn this year's competition beyond the loss of host Alex Trebek. Brayden Smith, the five-time winner who tragically passed away unexpectedly in February, would've qualified for the event and would've been one of the champions in the mix for more money and prestige in the game.
Guest host Buzzy Cohen made mention of the fact that Smith would've been a part of the fun during Jeopardy! and informed fans the show would be honoring the champion during the tournament:
You've now met all 15 of the players who have qualified for the Tournament of Champions. Well, almost all. Brayden Smith, the incredible young man who won 5 shows and $115,000 in January passed away earlier this year. Brayden's family has established a fund in his name, and Jeopardy! will be donating to that fund. We want to express our best wishes and condolences to his family.
Jeopardy! will donate to the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund, which is a fund meant for "educational aspirations of southern Nevada students." A note on the fund's website mentioned the fund honors Smith's avid pursuit of every opportunity to gain knowledge. No doubt that effort was a factor in his success on Jeopardy!.
Braden Smith passed away in late February of 2021, following complications from surgery. His death came as a shock to the Jeopardy! fandom, who had taken a liking to the young champion during his run. Smith was one of the final champions that Alex Trebek filmed with before his death, which helped gain him some notoriety in addition to his winning streak:
Jeopardy! is the latest program to donate to the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund, but other champions of the show have helped out as well. James Holzhauer helped raise awareness for the fund after its creation and vowed to match the first $10,000 donated. Four days after he posted about it, $16,000 in donations had already been sent in by fans, which was quite a surprising show of support from the fans.
Jeopardy!'s acknowledgment of Brayden Smith comes at a time in which the show is still using guest hosts and has not yet announced a permanent replacement for Alex Trebek. Audiences have continued to share their opinions about who's right for the role, and some celebrities have actually vied for the honor. As mentioned, Buzzy Cohen currently has the honors, and as a former champion of Jeopardy!, he would also be a solid long-term option for the game show.
Jeopardy! airs new episodes on weekdays, so be sure to check your local listings to follow the Tournament of Champions. For more on the search for a host, be sure to read up on the guest host we may have assumed would do well in the ratings but actually did pretty poorly.