Stuart Scott, an ESPN anchor and reporter whose catchphrases became part of the American popular sports vernacular for the past two decades, died Sunday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 49.
“ESPN and everyone in the sports world have lost a true friend and a uniquely inspirational figure in Stuart Scott,” said ESPN president John Skipper. “Who engages in mixed martial arts training in the midst of chemotherapy treatments? Who leaves a hospital procedure to return to the set?
“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.”
Scott, who received a standing ovation during his acceptance of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY Awards in July, addressed his uncertain future at the time.
“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” Scott told the audience. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
Scott joined ESPN in 1993 for the launch of ESPN2, quickly moving up the ranks as one of the network’s main SportsCenter anchors thanks to his rapid-fire delivery and unique phrasing to describe highlights. While Scott might not have invented the term “Boo-yah,” he certainly popularized.
By 2008, Scott was ubiquitous among the network’s programming. He anchored late-night SportsCenter shows, hosted Monday Night Countdown on location during the NFL season, served as the lead host for NBA on ESPN and ABC and interviewed Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
It was a workload he’d do his best to maintain during several recurrences of cancer, a diagnosis which first appeared during an emergency appendectomy in 2007. The disease reappeared in 2011, when Scott announced on Twitter that he was undergoing chemotherapy. He never revealed what kind of cancer he was fighting, and told the New York Times in March that it was not colon cancer.
By the time the illness reemerged in December 2012, Scott began to share more public details about his plight. In January 2013, he told USA TODAY about his routine at the time, which included only missing his ESPN work days for chemotherapy treatments every other Monday, after which he’d go train at a mixed-martial arts gym.
“I can take this,” he said at the time. “Deal with it easier than some people I see. So I think for the ones who can’t punch a heavy bag, can’t spar, who can’t do any of that. I’ll do it for you.”
Scott’s determination was well known to executives at ESPN long before his diagnosis. In 2002, Scott missed several months of work after his left eye was damaged by a football while he was working out with the New York Jets for an upcoming story. Due to previous problems with both eyes, including a right detached retina, Scott had to retrain his right eye to be his dominant eye, a task that presented a challenge when having to read from a teleprompter.
Scott is survived by his two daughters, Taelor, 19,and Sydni, 14, the latter of whom joined him onstage at the end of his ESPYs speech after he asked her to “come up here and give dad a hug because I need one.”
While Scott thanked his bosses at ESPN during that memorable oration, he made it clear that there was no career moment that could ever surpass what he considered his life’s best highlight.
“The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do,” Scott said. “Is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni.”
“Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express. You two are my heartbeat. I am standing here on this stage tonight because of you.”