john saunders

*Wow, here’s a shocker. John Saunders, a longtime ESPN personality has died. The network announced his passing on Wednesday. He was 61. At press time, the cause of death is not known. Saunders is survived by his wife, Wanda, and daughters Aleah and Jenna.

Saunders joined ESPN in 1986 as a “SportsCenter” anchor. He served as a studio host and play-by-play analyst for that network and ABC, covering NCAA football and basketball as well as the MLB, NHL and WNBA. He also hosted ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” for the last 15 years.

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

A visibly upset Hannah Storm reported Saunders’ death on “SportsCenter” from the Rio Olympics.

Saunders colleagues also expressed their condolences as well via social media:

“John Saunders represented everything that was good in a human being. He was all about family and helping people,” Dick Vitale said in a statement. “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 [Jim Valvano] 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.”