Gran’s tribute to Nelson, 18, who died “suddenly” playing basketball

Nelson Mattison

Nelson Mattison - Credit: Archant

The grandmother of a talented teenage artist who suddenly died while playing basketball – and who wanted to “change the world” – has given a moving tribute ahead of his funeral on Friday (September 18). The Voice’s Jermain Jackman, who was a childhood friend of the 18-year-old Nelson Mattison, also spoke of his shock and said he would be singing at Nelson’s funeral.

Tributes laid outside Nelson's family home

Tributes laid outside Nelson's family home - Credit: Archant

Grandmother Hyacinth Mattison raised Nelson after his mother Althea died at Homerton Hospital in 2002.

She said she “felt lost” without her grandson.

Nelson died after telling friends he needed to “take five” during a basketball game at Barnet Fields, north London.

Moments later they found him collapsed on the sidelines and called an ambulance but he was pronounced dead at the Royal Barnet Hospital.

Nelson, who grew up in Poplar Close, Homerton, excelled in art at Cardinal Pole School and Hoxton College and was due to start a graphic design course at Norwich University of the Arts.

Jermain said: “I will be singing at the funeral. Nelson was very close to my family; his mother worked with mine at the same dental surgery before she passed so I grew up knowing him. We used to go on outings and to adventure parks. I spoke to him the Sunday before he died to arrange to meet up, so it was a real shock to me

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“He was very talented young man that wanted to change the world one step at a time. He would always smile at everyone and everyone who knew him would say he was always in a good mood.”

Hyacinth said: “When all his friends came to pay their respects, you would think my grandson was a celebrity – there were so many of them. I think about all the things he achieved and his ambition, which was to make Hackney a better place for the youth.

“He used to say ‘I am going to be an example; I want to show I can come from a poor place and be somebody.’

“But somewhere along the line it seems that his age limit was 18.”

She added: “There was nothing wrong with him. He was just playing basketball and running up and down and suddenly he couldn’t breathe.”

Police made inquiries into his death in July, which was treated as unexplained, and Ms Mattison will learn the coroner’s verdict after Nelson’s funeral.

She said: “He was just happy-go-lucky, looking forward to going to university and to fulfilling his dreams.

“Now history is repeating itself. If anyone told me I would be burying Nelson as well as his mother I wouldn’t believe them – I don’t know how I am going to cope when everything finished.”

Jermain added: “I think it is important to get the message across that if young people are experiencing any aches or pains, then please get them checked by a doctor. Life is so very unpredictable.”

Friends and family are expected to gather tomorrow at St Mark’s Church, in St Mark’s Rise, Dalston from 10.30am to pay their respects.