Rick Bonnell was found dead in his Charlotte home on Tuesday, June 1st. He was 63 years old.
For the last 33 years, he’d been a sports reporter at the Charlotte Observer, working the Hornets beat from their inaugural season through their last one. Scott Fowler wrote a moving tribute to his longtime colleague at the Observer, which is well worth a read even if you didn’t know Bonnell or his work.
Rick Bonnell’s cause of death hadn’t been immediately determined, his son said, but was believed to be natural causes. Bonnell was found, unresponsive, by a friend at about 7 p.m. Tuesday in his Charlotte home.
Those are the cold hard facts of Bonnell’s sudden death. But I’m going to try to give you a better sense of one of the best journalists I ever knew, as our staff reels with shock and sadness.
Plenty of people who either knew or worked with Bonnell remembered him via social media, as well:
Just a good dude. My 1st "big" game assignment was the 2nd Kickoff Classic, Miami-Auburn. My TRS-80 couplers wouldn't work. Almost everyone had left, and Rick not only loaned me his couplers, he talked me off the ledge and stayed till my story went through. And he didn't know me.
— Joe Sirera (@JoeSireraSports) June 2, 2021
This hurts so much. He’s one of the writers who made covering the NBA back in the day so much fun. Was lucky enough to know him even before that, from my internship days, on assignment in Syracuse. A terrible loss for so many people on so many levels.
— David Steele (@David_C_Steele) June 2, 2021
Devastating. Such a kind man, who had such a passion for his work. Like the whole Sports Dept, he was so kind to me when I interned there in 97
— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) June 2, 2021
I’m floored. One of my best friends in the business or out is gone. 🙏 Thank you for writing this under the worst sort of duress.
— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) June 2, 2021
We’ll end with this passage from Fowler’s piece, including a quote from Bonnell’s son Jack:
And although he occasionally took other assignments for the newspaper for short periods and did take a couple of brief breaks from covering the Hornets, he would return to the job quickly because that was what he loved most. And it was covering the Hornets and the NBA at large where he made his biggest mark. Also known as a leader among beat writers who covered the league, Bonnell served a term as president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association from 2007-09.
“Work was a huge part of his life,” Jack Bonnell said. “He took a lot of pride in what he did. He liked telling stories — in the newspaper, and in life.”
Condolences to Rick’s family, friends, and colleagues.
[Charlotte Observer; image credit Charlotte Observer]