Longtime ESPN sports anchor, Stuart Scott, died Sunday morning at just 49 years old.
Among the features of the new ESPN studio in Bristol is a wall of catchphrases made famous by on-air talent over the years. An amazing nine of them belong to one man — from his signature “Boo-Yah!” to “As cool as the other side of the pillow” to “He must be the bus driver cuz he was takin’ him to school.”
That man is Stuart Scott, and his contributions to the sports lexicon are writ large. But they are only one aspect of his legacy. When he passed away, he left behind so much more. He inspired his colleagues with his sheer talent, his work ethic and his devotion to his daughters, Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15. He defied convention and criticism to help bring this network into a new century. He spoke to the very athletes he was talking about with a flair and a style that ESPN president John Skipper says, “changed everything.”
“He didn’t just push the envelope,” says sports radio host and former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick. “He bulldozed it.”
And he saved his best for his last year on the air. At the ESPYS on July 16, shortly before his 49th birthday and following another round of cancer surgery, Stuart accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance with strength, humor, grace and these eloquent words: “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.”
So while the grief is deep at ESPN over the death of Stuart Scott, so is our gratitude. He was as popular on campus as he was in the airports he passed through and on the sidelines he worked over the last 22 years. He brought so much to the party, and he will continue to do so, through the people he inspired, and the language that he liberated, and the audience that will remember him.
Stuart was born in Chicago, but he, along with two sisters and a brother, spent his formative years in North Carolina, where their father was a postal inspector who always had time to play after work. Stuart went to R.J. Reynolds High in Winston-Salem and then the University of North Carolina, where he played wide receiver and defensive back on the club football team, joined Alpha Phi Alpha and worked at the student radio station, WXYC. After graduating in 1987 with a degree in speech communication, Stuart was hired by WPDE-TV in Florence, S.C. He says that’s where he first came up with the pillow metaphor. “People say I stole it from a movie,” he told an interviewer in 1998, “but I first thought of that and said it on my first job … I just liked it.”
Scott was first diagnosed with cancer in 2007 after an emergency appendectomy. Although the cancerous tissue was removed, by 2010 the disease had returned. By 2012 Scott’s cancer was back in remission. Unfortunately, by January 2013 the cancer return, and again, Scott underwent a number of surgery and chemotherapy to fight the disease. He succumbed to the disease on the morning of January 4, 2014 after suffering liver complications and kidney failure.
He leaves behind two teen daughters from his marriage to Kimberly Scott. He was said to be in a relationship with fellow ESPN news anchor Kristin Spodobalski at the time of his death. We send our condolences to the Scott family. May he rest in peace.
Watch Scott’s compelling ESPY speech below.