Cleveland Cavaliers public address announcer Omar Samson passed away today after fighting a long battle with a rare respiratory disease called talcum powder lung. Samson was diagnosed in December of 2004, not long after the Cavaliers franchise was invigorated with the arrival of superstar Lebron James.
“Omar loved his job, he loved the Cavaliers and most of all – he loved Lebron James,” read a statement from his family. “Despite doctor’s suspicions that his rare condition was from inhaling massive amounts of James’ hand powder each night, Omar still chose to report for duty and subject himself to that risk. He was a courageous man, and we are proud of him.”
Talcum powder lung has only been diagnosed three times in history, each time afflicting an NBA public address announcer. Minnesota Timberwolves PA announcer Jake Tepper was the first to be diagnosed, but he recovered from the disease in the summer of 2007. And Boston Celtics PA man Chet Williams is the latest to be diagnosed, first developing symptoms in the Fall of 2007. Talcum powder lung is caused by the airways being blocked with the substance many NBA superstars wipe on their hands before games.
James says he is saddened by Samson’s passing, but doubts he had any role in his contraction of the disease.
“He could have inhaled massive amounts of talcum powder outside of just me covering him in it before all of our home games,” he said. “Maybe he worked as a young man at a talcum plant, if there is such a thing. Or maybe he ate talcum chips as a child. Or maybe … look, I don’t know. All I know is that it looks pretty cool when I throw all the powder up in the air before the opening tip.”
The Cavaliers are searching for a new PA announcer, but are having trouble finding a willing candidate – in addition to being unable to find an insurer willing to cover the position.
“The only way an insurance company will cover us is if our new PA guy wears a respirator at all times while on the job,” said team owner Dan Gilbert. “But that would make him sound like Darth Vader. Which, you know, now that I think about it, might actually be pretty cool.”