Former Purdue stout and 2016-17 consensus first-team All-American Caleb Swanigan died Monday, the school announced. His family confirmed the death, and he was 25.
Caleb Swanigan NBA player
Swanigan was named the 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year after 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 reached the Sweet 16. A former McDonald’s All-American, Swanigan entered the NBA Draft early on the strength of his dominant sophomore campaign and was selected 26th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2017, where he played two seasons.
We heard that story repeatedly; we heard it whenever Purdue basketball played between 2015 and 2017. And that was good because it was a good story. It was the story of a young man who grew up in a challenging environment, including a homeless shelter, a mother trying to make the best of her six children while moving back and forth between Utah and Indiana, and a father who fell victim to drug addiction.
It is the story of a young man who loved desserts, especially cheesecake, and seemed to use food to comfort himself in these terrible circumstances. Eventually, he weighed 360 pounds before entering high school. But then something changed.
💔 Devastated.— Purdue Mens Basketball (@BoilerBall) June 21, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers to Caleb Swanigan’s family and friends. The world lost a gentle soul last night.
Love you Biggie. pic.twitter.com/spU2hQtJdi
The 6-foot-9 power forward spent time in the G League before returning to play ten games for the Sacramento Kings in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He finished his career with the Trail Blazers and played 20 more games for Portland in 2019-20.
Swanigan’s battle with weight gain ultimately led him to leave basketball. He then pursued his calling in the field of rap music–long before he affectionately took on the nickname “Biggie”–but Swanigan has also been notorious for ongoing health issues and a drug charge in 2021 after leaving the NBA.
Swanigan was open about the precarious circumstances of his childhood. His father was a crack cocaine addict; according to a 2017 ESPN article, he lived in a homeless shelter five times and bounced back and forth between Indiana and Utah, where his mother lived. Swanigan’s father, Carl, died of diabetes-related complications in 2014 before Caleb enrolled at Purdue.
Swanigan’s path to Purdue was paved when former Purdue star Roosevelt Barnes, who coached Swanigan in grassroots basketball, took him under his wing and became his guardian in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Barnes adopted Swanigan when he became a teenager. This decision led Swanigan to basketball and become one of the country’s most promising high school students.