Stuart Scott, whose smooth delivery, trademark catchphrases and off-the-charts energy made him one of the most well-known and well-liked sports anchors in history, died Sunday morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.
Scott’s death came following a long absence from ESPN, where he emerged during the network’s 1990s heyday as one of its most prominent and marketable anchors.
An African-American icon who brought the flair of hip-hop to the Sportscenter set and inspired a generation of black sportscasters, Scott was one of the network’s longest-tenured on-air personalities, having stayed — and flourished — long after colleagues such as Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen and Keith Olbermann left.
Here’s what you need to know about his life and inspiring career:
1. Scott’s Cancer Returned in 2013 After Going Into Remission
According to his ESPN obituary, doctors first discovered a malignancy while Scott was undergoing an emergency appendectomy on November 26, 2007, after he’d become ill while covering the Steelers-Dolphins Monday Night Football game.
Scott underwent a subsequent surgery to remove the malignancy and continued to work as he underwent preventative chemotherapy.
In 2011, though, Scott was diagnosed with cancer in the abdomen. The disease went into remission in 2012, but returned again in 2013.
Scott, who had anchored ESPN’s Monday Night Football pregame and postgame coverage, missed the 2014 season while undergoing treatment.
On November 11, Scott shot down a rumor circulating on Twitter that he was in hospice care.
2. Scott Delivered an Iconic Speech at the 2014 ESPYs
Scott delivered an emotional speech at the 2014 ESPYs after being honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
From the speech:
To be honored with this … I know I have a responsibility to never give up. … I’m not special; I just listened to what the man said.” “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, while you live and the manner in which you live.
Scott revealed in the speech that he had four surgeries in seven days in the week prior to his appearance, when he was suffering from liver complications and kidney failure.
3. Scott Had Been an ESPN Anchor Since 1993
Scott joined ESPN2 at the network’s launch in 1993 as the host of SportsNight. He quickly earned a promotion to the anchor’s desk on Sportscenter, where he became a staple of the show and a big reason it became a ratings juggernaut that competitors have been unable to match for decades.
From ESPN’s obituary:
His first real assignments were for “SportsSmash,” a short sportscast twice an hour on ESPN2’s “SportsNight” program. When Keith Olbermann graduated from “SportsNight” to ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Stuart took his place in the anchor chair. “He was like a ball of fire walking in the door,” says ESPN Senior Vice President Mark Gross, a coordinating producer at the time, “I had never met anybody like Stuart Scott.”
“I’ve called him Boo-Yah forever,” says Norby Williamson, the ESPN Senior Vice-President who helped guide Stuart during those early years. “Ever since he used that catchphrase on the air for the first time, and we looked at each other and said, ‘What the hell is that?'”
He went on to become one of Sportscenter‘s longest serving anchors, in addition to hosting the network’s NBA coverage, which included a role in presenting the NBA championship trophy, and NFL coverage.
4. Scott Is Survived By His 2 Daughters & His Girlfriend
Scott is survived by daughters Taelor, 19 and Sydni, 15. He was married to Taelor and Syndi’s mother, Kimberley Scott, from 1993 to 2007.
Scott started dating Kristin Spodobalski in 2013.
During his ESPY’s speech, Scott brought Sydni on stage. He then concluded his speech by talking about both of his daughters.
“The best thing I’ve ever done, the best thing I will ever do is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni. I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters. I love you girls more than I will ever be able to express. You are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage tonight because of you.”
5. Scott Was Renowned for His Sense of Humor
Scott will be remembered for a sense of humor that made him wildly entertaining on the Sportscenter set and a cultural icon off of it.
Scott appeared constantly through the years in ESPN commercials, including the one above in which he runs into a horse in the bathroom.
From ESPN’s obit:
At a certain point, Stuart became as famous as the athletes he covered. That’s partly why he starred in so many “This is ‘SportsCenter'” commercials, alongside Tiger, Kobe, Keyshawn, LeBron, Mr. Met … and Chad Johnson, who rejected Stuart’s idea for a touchdown celebration with “Boo-No!”
Scott and former colleague Rich Eisen were frequent guests on VH1’s I Love the 90s, and Scott also hosted a special “sports edition” broadcast of American’s Funniest Home Videos.
Eisen, now the lead anchor for the NFL Network, delivered one of the most touching tributes to Scott shortly after ESPN announced Scott’s death Sunday morning.
Eisen, Scott’s partner on the 1 a.m. Eastern Sportscenter the re-aried throughout the morning, choked up as he recalled one of the partnerships that shaped TV in the ’90s and helped make ESPN the media giant it has become: Eisen was a Jewish guy from New York, he explained. Scott was a black guy from Chicago by way of North Carolina. They were an odd couple in some ways, but they became great friends — and put on a great show.
From Eisen’s monologue:
I was a 26-year-old Sportscenter anchor from New York City. A Jewish kid from New York City walking onto the set and being teamed up with a guy who I’d seen on television but had never met before: A proud African-American Chicagoan by way of North Carolina due to his school bleeding Carolina Blue. And the two of us became married on television, essentially. He referred to himself as my TV wife. And I cannot believe that I’m sitting here on television reporting to you the news that I heard about 10 minutes ago that Stuart Scott has died.
One of the most joyful, full-of-life individuals I have ever come across lived his life the way his parents wanted him to live it, the way he felt he should live it. He broadcast the same way. A groundbreaking broadcaster in the world of sports television. I love this man. I still love this man. And the fact that he has passed away is absolutely mind-boggling and a travesty.
Nick Forrester contributed to this report.