One of the Nets’ most recognizable fans is gone.
Jeffrey Vanchiro, known for his expertly coordinated, neon-accented outfits and energetic antics in the aisles of Barclays Center, died on Sunday after falling from a window at his father’s Queens home, reports said. The incident came two weeks after security guards at Madison Square Garden removed Vanchiro from a game between the Nets and the Knicks for supposedly disturbing members of the crowd, then removing his prosthetic leg and refusing to leave. A video shows security guards at the arena carrying Vanchiro away from his seat, leg off, and at one point dropping him head-first.
In an interview recorded at Barclays on Friday night, Vanchiro called his ejection from the Garden a traumatic experience that he was struggling to move past.
“When you try to stay the same after a life-changing event then you’re lying to yourself,” he said to OurBkSocial.com on Dec. 12. “I had the worst week of my life.”
Vanchiro, who also goes by the name Jeffrey Gamblero, grew up in Queens and Brooklyn and lived in Williamsburg. He was a graffiti artist as a young man, then, after spending time in prison for vandalism, became a professional poker player for eight years, according to an interview he did with the Youtube show ChiinoTV. In recent years he worked as an artist with the group Lofty Goals. In the ChiinoTV interview Vanchiro says he poured his poker earnings into 15 seats worth of tickets for the Nets’ inaugural season, with plans to resell them. The move came around the time he was leaving the poker world because he had grown tired of taking other people’s money, he said.
Vanchiro’s energetic dance moves and eye-catching attire at court-side quickly garnered him a reputation as a Nets superfan. In the Youtube clip, he describes attending home games as being like going to church.
“When you go to church that’s what you want, right? You want community, you want people together, we’re all in one direction, we’re all on the same tip, we’re all there for the same reason,” Vanchiro said. “And that’s what the Barclays Center is about with the Nets games. It’s like church, man. We’re all there, like, ‘Let’s go Brooklyn!’ ”
His enthusiasm also garnered the team’s attention, landing him an appearance on the cover of a program and a trip to London with the players. A team executive expressed his condolences in a statement.
“On behalf of ownership and the entire organization, I am terribly saddened to learn about Jeffrey’s death. A proud Brooklynite, Jeffrey was a passionate Nets fan and one of our most visible and loyal supporters,” said Brett Yormark, chief executive officer of the Nets and Barclays Center. “I always enjoyed his enthusiasm while dancing and cheering during Nets games at Barclays Center. The entire organization expresses our deepest condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed.”
Messages of support also poured in over social media, where Vanchiro’s fiancee Kristi Evans posted news of his death on Sunday night.
“We lost a brilliant, unique, incredible man today,” she wrote on Twitter.
Nets fans posted their memories of Vanchiro along with photographs taken with him at games.
“We loved Gamblero’s positive energy at Nets games. In person we found him very warm and considerate,” Jim Breckenridge wrote on Twitter.
Evans told the New York Times that after his ejection from Madison Square Garden Vanchiro was “a completely different person,” and that he was paranoid and couldn’t sleep.