Stuart Scott, longtime ESPN anchor, dies age 49

Stuart Scott, the longtime ESPN anchor who helped herald in the network's now ubiquitous popularity, has died age 49, the company announced Sunday.

Scott had been battling cancer for several years, and he finally succumbed to effects of the disease.

ESPN president John Skipper says Scott was "a true friend and a uniquely inspirational figure" and that 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."

In a statement, President Obama said he will miss Scott.

"Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day's best plays," the president said. "For much of those twenty years, public service and campaigns have kept me from my family - but wherever I went, I could flip on the TV and Stu and his colleagues on SportsCenter were there. Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us - with courage and love."

Scott first joined the network in 1993 to host ESPN2's "SportsNight" program. He eventually went on to become one of the most popular hosts of its flagship "SportsCenter" program, and he made famous a slew of catchphrases.

The longtime anchor also became known for a more brash style of hosting and interviewing that helped him become as popular as some of the celebrity athletes he covered.

"He didn't just push the envelope," sports radio host and former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick told the network. "He bulldozed it."

On Sunday morning, NFL Network broadcaster Rich Eisen's voice broke as he reported the death of his good friend, with whom he worked on "SportsCenter" broadcasts.

"I love this man," Eisen said.

ESPN anchor Hannah Storm called him "our colleague, our friend and our inspiration" as she reported the news. On the network's NFL pregame show, Chris Berman said, "Stuart made ESPN what it is, he made us better people."

Born in Chicago, Scott attended high school in North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1987, Scott worked at three TV stations in the southern U.S. before joining ESPN for the 1993 launch of its ESPN2 network, hosting short sports update segments.

He often anchored the 11 p.m. "SportsCenter," where he would punctuate emphatic highlights with "Boo-ya!" or note a slick move as being "as cool as the other side of the pillow."

Scott went on to cover countless major events for the network, including the Super Bowl, NBA finals, World Series and NCAA Tournament. He also interviewed President Barack Obama, joining him for a televised game of one-on-one. In 2001, Scott returned to Chapel Hill as the university's commencement speaker.

Scott was first diagnosed with cancer in November 2007 after he had to leave the "Monday Night Football" game between Miami and Pittsburgh to have his appendix removed. Doctors discovered a tumor during surgery. He underwent chemotherapy again in 2011.

Scott made a point of continuing to live his life - at work and outside of it.

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

Scott is survived by his parents, O. Ray and Jacqueline Scott; siblings Stephen Scott, Synthia Kearney and Susan Scott; his daughters Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15; and girlfriend Kristin Spodobalski.

As he accepted the award named for former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993, Scott noted: "When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer.

"You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live," Scott said. "So live. Live. Fight like hell."