Dustin Diamond's Ups and Downs, in Photos

The Saved by the Bell star gave most of his life to the franchise — with some personal highs and lows in between

01 of 09
Dustin Diamond
Dustin Diamond on Saved by the Bell. NBC

Fans first met an 11-year-old Dustin Diamond on the precursor to Saved by the Bell, Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Reflecting on his experiences with the successful franchise in a 2016 interview with Dr. Oz, he said: "When I was 11 through 21, I was just memorizing lines and trying to make the live audience laugh and the producers laugh and everything else. Trying to work with my castmates and make the director happy and everything else. It was work for me. I didn't think about the impact I had on the fan base until years later, until I got to meet them."

02 of 09
Dustin Diamond - News
Everett

From Miss Bliss came, of course, the wildly popular though short-lived Saved by the Bell, which made Diamond a household name along with his castmates, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez and Lark Voorhies. According to the Diamond-produced 2014 Lifetime biopic The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story, the actor's very first kiss was on-screen with costar Tori Spelling.

03 of 09
Dustin Diamond
Saved By the Bell cast. Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Diamond's career continued with the popular SBTB spinoffs, The College Years (1993-94) and The New Class (1994-2000, pictured), in which he returned to Bayside High as an employee. It wasn't all sunshine, though: The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story — inspired by Diamond's bombshell 2009 book Behind the Bell — implied that Diamond began to cope with the ups and downs of fame by turning to alcohol.

04 of 09
Dustin Diamond
Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty

Post-Bell, Diamond made a handful of cameos on TV shows and in movies, but made bigger headlines in 2006 for starring in a racy sex tape. In a 2013 episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, he clarified that the film featured a stunt double; his 2016 tell-all Extra interview with former Bell costar Mario Lopez revealed his motivations for the move. "I had to take a chance," he said. "What if that thing had made $3 or 4 million?"

05 of 09
dustin diamond
Dustin Diamond. Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Following the controversy, the actor joined the cast of Celebrity Fit Club, appearing on seasons 5 and 6 between 2007 and 2008. He started at 217 lbs. and by the time he left, was down to 194 lbs. His tenure was not without drama, though — including fights with his trainer. In a 2014 interview with the Associated Press, he said the reality show combined with the sex tape "was really the one-to-three punch of being the bad boy, not the squeaky-clean Screeh you remember."

"On one hand, [it] helped because it did break that image," he continued. "But in retrospect, I kind of wish I hadn't gone exactly that route. But there's no instruction book for any of this. You don't know what's going to work. You have to take that gamble. I wanted to rattle the cage, but I didn't think that it would rattle so much."

Diamond's next shot at enduring fame was on the U.K.'s Celebrity Big Brother 12. He was evicted 16 days in.

06 of 09
Dustin Diamond
Amazon

In 2009, Diamond dropped a tell-all called Behind the Bell, full of juicy stories from his time on the series. "It's no holds barred," he told PEOPLE ahead of its release. "But the embarrassing parts are embarrassing for all of us, myself included."

That same year, the rest of the cast reunited for a PEOPLE shoot without him; at the time, PEOPLE reported, he was "no longer close with his castmates."

07 of 09
dustin diamond
AP/Shutterstock

On Dec. 26, 2014, Diamond was arrested in Wisconsin after allegedly stabbing a man in a bar. The actor — then living in a small town outside of Milwaukee — was charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon. The actor claimed self-defense, saying other patrons were the ones to first get physical with his then-fiancée, Amanda Schutz. He was released from jail three days later, though ultimately served three months for his crimes in early 2016.

Speaking to Extra's Mario Lopez later that year about the experience in jail, he said, "It's pretty daunting, it's pretty scary going into that environment. I found that as long as you follow the rules and stay with the system, it works. You can get in and out unscathed."

In May 2016, Diamond was arrested again, this time for violating his probation.

08 of 09
Dustin Diamond - News
Sony Pictures Television

In November 2016, Diamond sat down with Dr. Oz to issue a public apology to his Saved by the Bell costars for his past behaviors, book and Lifetime biopic.

"I will say, guys, I think you're fantastic, working with you has been just one of the icons of my life and I'm sorry that this has taken advantage of me — the book and other situations I'm sure we'll talk about here. But I'm sure that you've experienced downfalls, as well, in your time and I'm still loving you guys," he said directly to the camera, adding that he used a ghostwriter for the book, and said many of the claims made within it were "upsetting to more than just the other cast members — upsetting to me as well."

Though Diamond was not invited to appear on Peacock's Saved by the Bell revival with the show's other former stars, in recent interviews, Berkley and Gosselaar appeared to only have kind words for the actor.

"Honestly, since I think we finished the show is the last time I actually spoke to him, but not because of anything bad," Berkley told Today in late 2020. "I mean, he was always nice to me and he's had his journey."

Gosselaar told The Hollywood Reporter that if the two ran into each other, "[I'd say] 'Hey, what's going on, man?' Would we go grab a beer afterwards? Probably not, but that doesn't mean anything."

09 of 09
Dustin Diamond
Dustin Diamond. Noel Vasquez/Getty

In early 2021, a rep for Diamond confirmed that the actor had checked into a hospital for an illness that was later confirmed to be cancer. On Jan. 21, the rep said the actor had started chemotherapy for stage 4 small cell carcinoma, a cancer that commonly occurs in lungs, but can also manifest in the prostate or gastrointestinal tract.

A second round of chemotherapy was being scheduled and Diamond was also set to begin physical therapy in the near future, according to NBC News. Sadly, he died on Feb. 1, 2021, at the age of 44.

"He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago," his rep said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful."

"He's had a history of mishaps, of unfortunate events. We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malevolent," the statement continued. "He — much like the rest of those who act out and behave poorly — had undergone a great deal of turmoil and heartache. His actions, though rebukeable, stemmed from loss and the lack of knowledge on how to process that pain properly. In actuality, Dustin was a humorous and high-spirited individual whose greatest passion was to make others laugh. He was able to sense and feel other peoples' emotions to such a length that he was able to feel them too — a strength and a flaw, all in one."

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