Purdue All-American, former NBA player Caleb Swanigan dies aged 25
Caleb Swanigan, former Purdue star and 2016-17 All-American first-team consensus, died Monday, the school said. The family confirmed the death. He was 25 years old.
Swanigan was also the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2017, following a season in which he averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists for a Purdue team that went 27 -8 and made the Sweet 16. Swanigan, a former McDonald’s All-American, grew histo an early entry into the NBA draft. He was selected 26th overall in 2017 by the Portland Trail Blazers, where he played for two seasons.
The 6-foot-9 forward spent time in the G League before returning to play 10 games with the Sacramento Kings in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He ended his playing career with the Trail Blazers, playing another 20 games for Portland during the 2019-20 season. Swanigan’s battle with weight gain eventually led him to quit basketball. He pursued a calling in rap music afterwards – long before that he lovingly took on the nickname ‘Biggie’ – although Swanigan also gained notoriety for his ongoing health issues and a drug charge in 2021 , after his departure from the NBA.
“The Purdue basketball family is deeply saddened and devastated by the loss of Caleb Swanigan,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said in a statement. “Caleb was a very thoughtful person and a gentle soul who excelled on and off the pitch. He made a huge difference in the lives of everyone he touched and he will be sorely missed.”
Swanigan died of natural causes, according to the Fort Wayne television station WANE, which cited the Allen County Coroner’s Office.
Swanigan was open about his unstable situation growing up. His father was a crack user. He had flare-ups where he lived in homeless shelters five times, according to a 2017 ESPN story, and also fluctuated between living in Indiana and Utah, where his mother lived. Swanigan’s father, Carl, died of diabetes-related causes in 2014, before Caleb enrolled at Purdue. Swanigan’s path to Purdue was set when former Purdue star Roosevelt Barnes, who coached Swanigan in grassroots basketball, took him in and became his tutor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Barnes adopted Swanigan as he entered his teens. It was this decision that set Swanigan down the basketball path that turned him into one of the top high school prospects in the nation.
“During his NBA career, Swanigan has worked extensively with Portland-area youth and FoodCorps to promote healthy eating habits in schools and eliminate childhood hunger,” Purdue’s statement read.
Swanigan’s former teammates were quick to take to social media to express their grief, including Vincent Edwards, who played with Swanigan at Purdue and posted footage of their time together as Boilermakers.