05/18/2011 01:10 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2011

Daryl Hawks, NBC Anchor Who Died, Honored With Game Ball From Bulls Win Over Hawks

On Thursday, May 12, the Chicago Bulls clinched a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals with a victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

It was a day of celebration in Chicago, but also marred by unexpected tragedy: NBC-5 sports reporter Daryl Hawks died unexpectedly in his hotel room that morning at age 38. An autopsy proved inconclusive about the cause of his death, and further tests have been ordered.

The journalist and anchor was in Atlanta to cover the game, and was a die-hard Bulls fan. So the team decided to honor his memory with a rare tribute: the game ball from that victory, signed by the entire team, will be given to Hawks' family, NBC reports.

Hawks served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and played running back in a semi-pro football league, according to a Chicago Tribune obituary. He was a lifelong athlete and workout fanatic. When he failed to show up to the morning shootaround before last Thursday's game, his colleagues worried, only to find him unresponsive in his room.

The game ball is currently at a designer, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, who is removing one of the panels and painting it with commemorative information about the game -- date, score, and other facts. It will then be returned to the Bulls for autographs, and given to his family.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to a fund set up to support the education of his three children. Donations can be made to the Hawks Children Education Fund at the Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, 7777 Lake St., River Forest, IL, 60305, care of Sean Olis.