DALLAS — Andrea Tucker was one of several college students selected to partake in a summer internship for ESPN in 2013.
While Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly savored every moment in gaining professional broadcasting experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports, arguably her grandest regret, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott.
During Tucker’s brief tenure at ESPN, Scott was covering the NBA Finals.
“I heard about him a lot,” Tucker told MemphiSport late Sunday night. “And there were interns who wanted to shadow and meet up with him but we weren’t able to because of his busy travel schedule when our internship first started.”
Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a nearly seven-year battle with cancer. He was 49.
Widely known for his hip-hop style and assortment of catchphrases, Scott, a Chicago native, grew up in North Carolina, where he graduated from the University of North Carolina. Having joined ESPN during an era in which there were a number of already-accomplished African-American broadcasters, Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television.
Having popularized the phrase “Boo-yah,” which spread from sports into the mainstream culture, Scott’s celebrity soared, in large part because he became prominent for interacting in the same manner as fans would at home, a trend ESPN president John Skipper said “changed everything” with regards to how Scott spoke about athletes he covered.
According to Tucker, who graduated last year with a degree in Journalism from University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Scott’s unorthodox style of reporting was embraced by many throughout the sports world, most notably the African-American community.
“Stuart was able to relate and connect so well with African-Americans because of the fact that he was so true to himself,” Tucker said. “He didn’t try to be like anyone else that was before him. He was just so unapologetic about bringing African-American culture to media and, even though there were people who didn’t like it, he didn’t change that part of himself to please anyone.”
During ESPN’s summer internship program, Tucker had the luxury of gaining professional experience from several of the best broadcast journalists in the business, particularly when she often shadowed ESPN2’s First Take crew of Cari Champion, Stephen A. Smith, and Skip Bayless. In addition, she spent time observing longtime broadcaster Mike Greenberg and former NFL player Mike Golic during their four-hour sports talk show called, Mike And Mike In Mike Morning, as well as shadowed ESPN reporter Michael Smith, and anchors Jay Harris and Robert Flores, among others.
Although Tucker had never met Scott, she sensed his presence throughout the network’s Bristol, Connecticut campus was felt even in his absence.
“Stuart inspired me to excel in my field because after looking at him, I’m convinced that I don’t have to look a certain way or even sound a certain way and put on this reporter voice to be able to do a good job of covering sports,” Tucker said. “What made me more inspired is that he was an African-American man who was successful in his field and did not hesitate talking the same way he did in everyday life. He wasn’t going to change his style for anyone who disapproved. Seeing him and even others that came after him showed there’s no need in being someone who’s fabricated if I want to do well in media.”
Tucker was attending morning worship Sunday when she learned of Scott’s death. For her, such news was difficult to stomach, considering she once appeared in the same ESPN studios that ultimately made Scott famous.
“I was at church so I couldn’t watch television and learned about his death via the ESPN and SportsCenter Twitter accounts that I followed,” Tucker said. I was immediately heartbroken and in disbelief that it happened. It was like someone I grew up with left too soon.”
Known for such popular catchphrases as, “Boo-Yah!,” “Hallah,” and “As cool as the other side of the pillow,” among others, Scott had been with ESPN for 14 years before learning he was diagnosed with appendix cancer.
Scott eventually had gone into remission after having his appendix removed. However, he was stricken with cancer again, this time in 2011 and 2013. Consequently, Scott was honored during the ESPY Awards last year with the Jimmy V Award during which he gave a tear-jerking speech that included saluting his two daughters.
““Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express,” Scott said during his speech. “You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you.”
Tucker said Scott’s legacy and contributions will be forever cherished, particularly throughout the sports world.
“(His) legacy will never be forgotten because any anchor that calls themselves wanting to sound ‘cool’ and have no problem staying true to who they are should feel indebted to him, because he was so bold in his delivery and was truly a trailblazer,” Tucker said. He was a huge part of the NBA and NFL broadcasting and just ESPN in general.”
Prior to Sunday’s Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys Wild Card playoff game here, the AT&T Stadium crowd held a moment of silence in honor of Scott.
Also, during Monday night’s Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid homage to the UNC alumnus by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read: STU.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.