ESPN remembers John Saunders

John Saunders, one of ESPN’s most visible and versatile commentators and a founding member of the board of directors for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, passed away. He was 61.

His family issued a statement.

ESPN President John Skipper said: “John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades. 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.”

Former President and Executive Chairman, ESPN, Inc., George Bodenheimer said: “John contributed greatly to building ESPN and always represented the company with class and dignity. As a founding board member of The V Foundation he played a critical role in helping so many others through this important cause. We will miss John’s friendship and spirit and extend our best wishes to his family.”

ESPN NFL host Chris Berman said: “John Saunders was our friend, and he was your friend. You were immediately comfortable with John in 30 seconds. I was fortunate enough to be comfortable with him for 30 years. We knew him for his understated demeanor and understated smile, but we also knew him for his firm commitment to getting things right and treating people right. John was old school, even Old World. Maybe because he was Canadian. Maybe because he was John.

“Professionally, he was always willing to be out of the limelight but make no mistake. With John Saunders, you knew you were in special company. His mark on ESPN is indelible. His mark on all of us even more so.”

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said: “John Saunders represented everything that was good in a human being. He was all about family and helping people. He was as good as it gets and he had deep loyalty and love for others. His work with The V Foundation was so special – he loved Jimmy V and poured his heart and soul into the cause.He was always willing to share and give and he played a vital role in the success of helping so many. I can’t believe this stunning and horrible news. He will be forever in our thoughts.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding the passing of John Saunders: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of John Saunders. As the studio host of NBA Shootaround, a play-by-play announcer for nationally televised NBA and WNBA games and one of the Toronto Raptors’ first television voices, John was a vital member of the NBA family for more than two decades and was a friendly and familiar face to our players and fans. His achievements in journalism are matched only by his commitment to his community, particularly his service as a founding member of the V Foundation. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Wanda, their two daughters, Aleah and Jenna, and the entire Saunders family during this difficult time.”

Saunders, who hosted and handled play-by-play for a variety of sports, joined ESPN in 1986 and was one of the company’s most tenured commentators. ESPN MediaZone has more on Saunders’ career. Saunders’ friends, colleagues and admirers shared their thoughts on social media.

Hannah Storm shared the news of Saunders’ passing on SportsCenter.

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