The sudden death of ESPN host John Saunders on Wednesday morning stunned the sports world, including many of his longtime friends. Saunders was a constant presence on ESPN and had appeared all over the network, on SportsCenter, The Sports Reporters and hosting various documentaries. More importantly, he was a friend and mentor to many at the network and in the sports media business.
One of those people he helped was Stephen A. Smith, who had an understandably emotional reaction to the news during Wednesday morning’s taping of First Take. You can watch it above.
Smith hinted in his impromptu eulogy that Saunders had dealt with various health problems over the years, but nothing to make anyone think this was imminent. His death seems to have blindsided everyone. Smith said he had planned to have dinner and catch up with Saunders in the near future after missing this past weekend’s National Association of Black Journalists meeting in Washington D.C., where Saunders was present.
Smith called Saunders “The Godfather” due to his willingness to mentor younger ESPN talent. The whole segment is worth watching and highly moving, especially when you consider Smith had just gotten the news a few minutes before going on the air.