Stuart Scott, a prominent ESPN sportscaster who was known for infusing his reports with a blend of pop culture references, slang and exuberant phrases that made him something of a pop culture figure in his own right, died on Sunday in a Hartford-area hospital. He was 49.
The cause was cancer, ESPN said.
“Booyah!” was Scott’s signature expression, and it spread well beyond sports and into mainstream culture. Other times he would enliven his offerings of scores, commentary and highlights with remarks like “Cool as the other side of the pillow,” “Just call him butter ’cause he’s on a roll,” and “Wow! That was as hard-core as the Wu-Tang Clan on steroids!”
Scott, the most prominent black sportscaster at ESPN, told the online magazine XXL in July that hip-hop was an important part of his life — as was Broadway music.
“You’ve got to be true to who you are and what you do,” he said. “I’m more of a hip-hop feel person. Music is how you feel. The younger the mind, that’s how I want to be.”
He appeared in videos with the rappers LL Cool J and Luke, and he was cited in “3 Peat,” a Lil Wayne song: “Yeah, I got game like Stuart Scott, fresh out the ESPN shop.”
Scott recognized that his critics did not always like his affinity for rap, but he insisted that he did not care what they said. He told NPR in 2002 that one black viewer had said to him, “All you’re trying to do is drag our race down” by using improper language and slang. “We’re better than that,” the man told Scott.
Scott said: “All right, man. We’re better than that. That’s not going to make me change what I do and how I do it.”
Scott joined ESPN in 1993 for the beginning of its first spinoff network, ESPN2, but he soon moved to “SportsCenter,” which had already developed stars like Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Chris Berman, Robin Roberts and Bob Ley. Scott became defined as much for his energy, wit and stylish wardrobe as for his arsenal of catchphrases.
“Stuart brought a different, unique sensibility to ‘SportsCenter,’ ” said James Andrew Miller, an author of “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” an oral history of ESPN. “He invented his own style, and in doing so, he grew the audience. He was easily one of the most influential personalities in ESPN history.”
In a statement, President Obama said: “Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day’s best plays.”
The president added: “Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us — with courage and love.”
Scott also hosted N.F.L. and N.B.A. shows — in the studio and on the road — and less serious fare like “Dream Job” and “Stump the Schwab.”
He learned of his cancer in 2007 while on assignment in Pittsburgh for “Monday Night Football,” having had an emergency appendectomy. Doctors discovered appendiceal cancer.
The cancer recurred several times, requiring him to miss stretches of time in the studio and assignments. To stay in shape, he endured exhausting mixed-martial-arts and cross-training workouts, sometimes right after chemotherapy treatments.
“For the mind, it’s better than any chemo,” Scott told ABC’s “Good Morning America” early in 2014. “It’s better than any medicine.”
Even while undergoing operations, chemotherapy and experimental treatments, he never asked his doctors for a prognosis, he said.
“Stage 1, 2 or 8, it doesn’t matter,” he told The New York Times last March. “I’m trying to fight it the best I can.”
Scott was born on July 19, 1965, in Chicago to O. Ray and Jacqueline Scott. When he was 7, his family moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., where he grew up loving football and was a captain of his high school team. He played on a club football team at the University of North Carolina.
“Much as I love mixed martial arts, I love football more — more than any activity until I had kids,” he told The Times.
At North Carolina, he majored in speech communication. He graduated in 1987 and worked at local news stations in the South for several years before ESPN hired him.
Scott is survived by his daughters, Taelor and Sydni; his companion, Kristin Spodobalski; his parents; his sisters, Susan Scott and Synthia Kearney; and his brother, Stephen.
In July, Scott received a perseverance award at the ESPYs, ESPN’s televised award ceremony. The honor is named for Jim Valvano, a former North Carolina State basketball coach who died of cancer in 1993 at 47 after working as a commentator for ESPN.
In accepting the award, Scott said that he had had four operations in the previous week and had had kidney failure and kidney complications.
“When you die, that doesn’t mean you lose to cancer,” he said on the stage, eliciting comparisons to the speech that Valvano gave at the ESPYs shortly before his death. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live. So live. Fight like hell, and when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let someone else fight for you.”
As he ended his speech, he called his daughter Sydni to the stage to give him a hug.
“I need one,” he said.