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Leon Taylor, a social media manager at Sky TV who was fondly known as the Basketball Yeti, had a heart attack on Wednesday morning.
His wife Kate tried to save him but couldn't.
"It was sudden and unknown - I was with him," she told the Herald on Sunday.
"Leon was so loved and I have been floored by how so many people have been wrapping themselves around me."
An outpouring of grief from Taylor's loved ones, friends, work colleagues and members of the basketball community has followed his death.
Three months ago he started his dream job at Sky TV. He was also passionate about basketball and blogged about it.
"He was a razor-sharp basketball statistician and analyst. His opinions were on point, brave and honest. He would get straight to the point," Kate said.
Matt Walsh, chief executive of the New Zealand Breakers franchise, met Taylor two years ago when he bought the team.
He said Taylor was a loyal fan, despite the side's on-court fortunes, describing him as "part of the wider Breakers family".
"Leon the Yeti was always at the games," Walsh said.
"He was one of those people that you always felt more positive after any interaction with him. If things weren't going well for us he would offer a word of encouragement, and if things were going great he was the first to come over and high-five you.
"He cared so much about growing the game of basketball. I will miss his contagious energy and you'd struggle to find someone who will say something bad about Leon. The kind of life he lived and the passion and the happiness he brought to others, hopefully, someday I will be able to live like that."
Kate Taylor described how the moment she saw Leon it was love at first sight. They were both 16 years old.
"It was instant, I thought that's the guy. That's the one. I have to have him. We supported, motivated, and loved each other - we made each other better people.
"The gift I have had for 23 years with Leon is more than some people will ever have in their life. He has ruined me for any other love."
The pair became friends at drama classes at Long Bay College, with Kate making her first romantic move just before going on stage.
Taylor was a foot taller than Kate but she says they both had the same sized hearts.
"It was just before showtime so I walked up to him and looked up at him, we had a foot difference in height but I had to make an impression so I launched at him from the ground and head-butted him in the forehead as hard as I could and ran away."
A close friend of the couple, Jess Molina described Taylor simply as "loving", with the knack of making you feel like the "most important" person in the room
"He had this massive presence and would light up a room with a big smile on his face and wrap you up in big warm bear hugs. Yetis are mythical creatures and Leon was mythical in so many ways - but he was real to us and people would flock to him."
Like his wife, Taylor was a movie buff. He filmed the writer's reviews on her blog site One Take Kate.
Molina described the pair as the "perfect loving" couple.
"It was the way Leon looked at her, he was always there to protect her. They were growing together from being teenagers to being a married couple. You could tell they loved each other - I have never seen anyone complement each other the way they did."
Taylor was a freelance artist, designer, and musician in a heavy metal band, Never Repent.
As a mature student, he trained as a 2D classic animator.
"He was a creative generalist who loved classical art, especially Caravaggio. He was a painter and sculptor and produced album covers, designed tattoos, and labels for products," Kate said.
A funeral date is yet to be confirmed but Kate wants her husband to be remembered as warm and empathetic.
"Leon was non-judgmental and cared about social justice. He was a worrier and an advocate for LGBTQ, and for all races and people. He wanted people to live their lives the way they wanted and be loved - that was Leon. He was my big and hairy and friendly Yeti."
A Givealittle page has been set up by friends to help Taylor's family with funeral costs.