John Saunders, who worked for ESPN for nearly 30 years and covered college football, basketball, and hockey for the network in addition to serving as the host of The Sports Reporters, died on Wednesday morning at the age of 61. No cause of death has been announced, but ESPN confirmed the news.
SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm broke the news live on the air and was very emotional:
Stephen A. Smith was also very emotional about the news when he reacted to it live on First Take just minutes after it broke:
And when Michael Smith and Jemele Hill discussed Saunders on His & Hers, they both shed tears:
"John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades," John Skipper, president of ESPN, said in a statement. "His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes, as evidenced by his long-standing efforts as a passionate board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time."
Saunders first joined ESPN back in December 1986 as a SportsCenter anchor, but his role grew over the years and he eventually covered everything from Stanley Cup playoff games to the WNBA for the network. He is survived by his wife Wanda and two daughters Aleah and Jenna.
Here is how ESPN personalities, past and present, have responded to the news about Saunders’ death: