ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott dies at age 49 after cancer battle

ESPN Sportscaster Stuart Scott arrives at the Tiger Jam VIII benefit concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, in this file photo taken on May 21, 2005. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
ESPN Sportscaster Stuart Scott arrives at the Tiger Jam VIII benefit concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, in this file photo taken on May 21, 2005. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Stuart Scott, an ESPN sportscaster whose use of pop culture references and wordplay earned him a loyal following among United States fans and the athletes he covered, died on Sunday at the age of 49.

ESPN, the network he joined in 1993, said Scott died of cancer, having battled recurrent bouts of the disease since he was first diagnosed in November of 2007.

Scott's signature expression, "Booyah!" spread beyond the sports world and he peppered his reports and commentary on athletes and their exploits with other lively phrases such as "Cool as the other side of the pillow" or "Just call him butter 'cause he's on a roll."

Scott anchored ESPN's flagship SportsCenter shows, hosted the NFL pre-game show Monday Night Countdown and served as the lead host for NBA coverage on ESPN and the ABC network.

In July, he delivered an eloquent speech upon accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY Awards, an honour named for Jim Valvano, the North Carolina State basketball coach who died of cancer in 1993 at 47 after working as a commentator for ESPN.

Looking frail, Scott told the audience: "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."

Scott was ESPN's most prominent black sportscaster, and although it prompted criticism from some quarters, he infused his reports not only with references to Shakespeare but also with hip-hop slang that resonated with a young black audience.

"What u did for our culture, bringing that Swag to reporting can only be copied," NBA superstar LeBron James wrote on his Instagram account on Sunday as tributes to Scott poured out on social media.

"Thank you so much for being u and giving us inner city kids someone we could relate to that wasn't a player but was close enough to them," James wrote.

Golf star Tiger Woods took to Twitter with a word of support for Scott's wife and teenage daughters.

"Stuart wasn't covering heroes & champions, it was the other way around," Woods tweeted. "Thinking of my friend & his daughters."

US President Barack Obama, an avid sports fan, said he would miss Scott.

"Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favourite teams and the day's best plays," Obama said in a statement. "Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us - with courage and love."