Frank Deford, who as a journalist for Sports Illustrated was known as a master of long-form storytelling and as a regular commentator for National Public Radio brought sports to life for many listeners with only a passing interest in athletics, has died at age 78, his wife said on Monday.
Well known for his decades-long career at Sports Illustrated, Deford wrote lengthy features on iconic sports figures like Bob Knight, the controversial IN basketball coach, and Billy Conn, the boxer known as "The Pittsburgh Kid". Starting in 1980, he delivered memorable sports monologues on NPR's "Morning Edition".
Obama said Deford transformed "how we think about sports". He was elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters, and in 2013 President Barack Obama presented Deford with the National Humanities Medal.
"He could watch the grittiest game and zoom in on the moment that made it important", AP national sports columnist Jim Litke said.
Frank Deford began with Sports Illustrated in 1962 writing many stories for the publication and authored several books.
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Deford in a 2008 interview with Deadspin discussed his decades in the journalism business: "For my taste, I liked it better the way that it was".
"In addition to being an vast talent, he was a consummate gentleman, a dear friend, and a beloved, original member of our "Real Sports" family". Deford also hosted HBO documentaries. "The world of sports commentaries will never be the same".
Deford is survived by his wife, the former fashion model Carol Penner, two children, and two grandchildren.