Bear was such an appropriate nickname for Bret Bearup. At 6’9” and a stout frame, Bear stood out in a crowd, even at Pepsi Center where tall people are more common than most other places on Earth. He often wore black, he slicked his hair back like Pat Riley, and carried himself with a confidence befitting a man of his size and with his wealth of life experience.
Bear’s life never wandered too far from the game of basketball. He was an all-American player growing up in New York and played at the University of Kentucky in the early 80s alongside Sam Bowie and Melvin Turpin. He was affable, handsome, smart, and inquisitive, all qualities that helped him know (it would seem) every human on the planet. Throughout his life he played many roles around the game of basketball including as a financial advisor with a client list of over 100 high-profile athletes. Most recently, he was Stan Kroenke’s right hand man. Most of all, in my experience, Bear was a friend to almost everyone he met.
I’ll admit that I was a bit choked up when I heard the news last night that he had passed away at age 56. Bear was a man who had lived this big life, full of outrageous stories, jet-setting around the globe with celebrities. Forget 6 degrees of separation, Bear seemed to have a very personal, funny or interesting story about everyone you could imagine.
And yet, despite living such a big life, Bear always treated me like he was genuinely interested in me as a person. He’d stop by most home games and chat about anything and everything under the sun. He’d text me articles about artificial intelligence, a subject we both are obsessed about. He’d even invite me over to watch games with him in his apartment downtown. I’d love to believe it was because he thought I was interesting but the truth was he thought everybody was interesting. I smiled last night as I read through everyone’s tributes to Bear on Twitter because they all read very similarly to mine.
Bear was the kind of person that made an impact on the people that he met in life and I admire him for that. I’m also inspired by it. I’ll miss him around Pepsi Center, I’ll miss his Facebook feed which was equal parts witty, hilarious, and insightful. And I’ll miss his friendship. The Denver Nuggets family lost a good one. Rest easy, Bear.
Bret Bearup was a mountain of a man with a heart bigger than the Rockies. Just a kind and gentle giant to so many people.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) May 18, 2018
Bret Bearup was one of the most fascinating people I ever met. He had this contagious zest for life. I spent a lot of time around him over the years - he made you laugh and think and laugh some more. Rest In Peace.— Benjamin Hochman (@hochman) May 18, 2018
If you knew Bret Bearup, I guarantee you’ve got a story. Yours might be better than mine. But I’ve got some great memories of a hysterically funny, brilliant man. So sad to hear of his passing.— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) May 18, 2018
Dam Bret Bearup. Terrible news. RIH big guy. You will be missed.— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) May 18, 2018
Heartbroken to hear Bret Bearup has passed. He was a basketball version of the grand storyteller from the movie Big Fish in real life. Always a joy to be around. Always living his best life. One of a kind. R.I.P.— Chad Andrus (@chadandrus) May 18, 2018
Just found out Bret Bearup passed away. Bret was one of my absolute favorite people at Pepsi Center, and was one of the biggest supporters of my work.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 18, 2018
He was just this big, lovable personality. We weren’t super close, but I’m going to miss talking with him so much.
No way to do justice to the bigger-than-life Bret Bearup. We worked together for years. We talked about just about everything from quantum physics to hoops to family to buying sports teams. Always laughing. https://t.co/qORxI0av00— Dean Oliver (@DeanO_Lytics) May 18, 2018
Helped me out in the early days, regularly, unsolicited, with no intent of receiving any help back ever. Just did nice things like that. And, honestly, one of the best users of Facebook in recorded history. He understood what fun was.https://t.co/SH4iiDv174— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) May 18, 2018
RIP to former Kentucky Wildcat Bret Bearup, who passed away at the age of 56. Bearup was a prominent influence on the basketball scene for many years, and was such a fun person to be around. Sad day. pic.twitter.com/WgRuzWIXFb— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) May 18, 2018
One of the people who helped me get started in this biz. He walked through the MIT Sloan conference like the Bear he was. RIP Bret Bearup. https://t.co/ejHVZZJyy2— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 18, 2018
Woke up to the Bret Bearup news and I'm heartbroken. People often say "he was one of a kind", but that was truly the case with Bret. He loved his children dearly, lived every day to make people smile and craved knowledge. We should all live that way. Wonderful man.— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) May 18, 2018