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Hosts of The Sports Reporters remember John Saunders in touching tributes

Saunders, a longtime ESPN host and commentator, died unexpectedly last week

Sunday morning’s episode of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters was the first to air since the death of the show’s host John Saunders, who died Aug. 10. He was 61 years old.

Saunders’ absence was felt by viewers and co-hosts alike. During the episode, co-hosts Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom, William Rhoden and Bob Ryan each took turns expressing their condolences and delivering fitting tributes that described how Saunders touched their lives in different ways.

“The phenomenal public outpouring of grief and love for him speaks for itself,” Ryan said during his tribute. “Yes, he was a very good guy. We will miss our friend, most of all. ESPN has lost a first-ballot Hall of Fame TV talent.”

Saunders joined ESPN in 1986 as a SportsCenter anchor, but quickly proved to executives that he was capable of being used in more than one role. During his time with the network, Saunders covered a variety of sports, including college football and basketball, hockey and baseball.

Saunders was also invested in making a difference in the world around him. Along with his involvement in other organizations, Saunders was a founding member of The V Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of his colleague and good friend, former college basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died of bone cancer in 1993. Saunders served as a board member for the foundation until his death.

“This tragic news brings us unspeakable sorrow,” Saunders’ family said in a statement. “John was the patriarch of our family, and we can’t believe he is gone. We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and sadness, which is a reflection of the character and integrity that defined him.”

Watch Ryan’s full tribute below.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.