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ESPN's Stuart Scott, 49, dies from cancer

Stuart Scott's ESPY speech

Stuart Scott's ESPY speech

Stuart Scott, one of ESPN's most visible and visionary personalities, died Sunday morning after a seven-year battle with appendiceal cancer. He was 49.

His death prompted an outpouring of reaction and remembrances not only from his many current and former ESPN colleagues, but also from the wider community of sports fans, including President Barack Obama.

"I will miss Stuart Scott," he said, then added a reference to Scott's defining professional legacy: "Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day's best plays."

Scott joined ESPN2 at its launch in 1993, when it was attempting to serve as a hipper, more youthful alternative to the original channel.

The channel ended up evolving in a different direction, but Scott more than fulfilled that initial goal.

Over the years, he developed a distinctive persona and a series of catchphrases, notably "Boo-yah!" and "Cool as the other side of the pillow."

More significantly, he integrated pop-culture references from a perspective rarely heard on the network before him -- that of a young, black man. It was an approach that had many detractors as well as appreciative fans.

Scott even experimented with poetry slams on "SportsCenter," which fascinated some and baffled others.

As one former colleague, Dan Patrick, recalled in a video tribute prepared by ESPN, "He didn't push the envelope. He bulldozed the envelope."

During a media tour of ESPN's new studios in late May, Newsday asked Scott about his early-career risk-taking.

"I followed what had already been established here, and that is, be yourself," he said. "Be who you are."

Scott credited ESPN announcer Chris Berman with breaking ground by bringing his personality to the job of reading sports highlights.

"When I got to ESPN, I saw the people who ran our company had the foresight to understand diversity," he said. "And diversity is not just what people look like. It is personality and how people fit on the air."

Scott co-hosted the first "SportsCenter" on the show's new set with Steve Levy June 22, then was honored at the ESPYS July 16 with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

During his seven-minute speech at the ESPYS, Scott said, "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live."

That night he revealed he had been in the hospital for a week and had been released only days earlier, having undergone four surgeries in seven days, and had endured liver complications and kidney failure.

His "energetic and unwavering devotion to his family and to his work while fighting the battle of his life left us in awe, and he leaves a void that can never be replaced," ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement.

Scott appeared on numerous ESPN programs, as well as the popular "This is SportsCenter" commercial series, and appeared as himself on TV shows and films. He even was given the high pop-culture honor of being parodied on "Saturday Night Live."

Scott's long bout with cancer mostly was waged privately, but in March, The New York Times published a story on him that chronicled his use of intense mixed martial arts training in an effort to maintain his strength and stave off the disease.

"Who engages in mixed martial arts training in the midst of chemotherapy treatments?" Skipper said. "Who leaves a hospital procedure to return to the set?"

Among the most emotional remembrances Sunday came from Scott's longtime "SportsCenter" partner, Rich Eisen, who said on NFL Network's "GameDay" show: "I love this man. I still love this man. The fact that he has passed away is absolutely mind-boggling and a travesty."

Scott is survived by his daughters, Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15, his parents, three siblings and his longtime girlfriend, Kristin Spodobalski.

New York Sports