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Frank Deford, Renowned Sportswriter, Dies at 78

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents a 2012 National Humanities Medal to National Humanities Medal to writer Frank Deford during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. Deford is recognized for transforming how we think about sports. (Credit: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Frank Deford, the renowned sportswriter and commentator, has died. He was 78.

The death was confirmed Monday by NPR, where Deford delivered commentaries for 37 years.

Deford was also well known for a decades-long career at Sports Illustrated, where he started working in 1962. Deford wrote lengthy features on iconic sports figures like Bob Knight, the controversial Indiana basketball coach, and Billy Conn, the boxer known as “The Pittsburgh Kid.”

Deford was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2013 “for transforming how we think about sports.”

“A dedicated writer and storyteller, Mr. Deford has offered a consistent, compelling voice in print and on radio, reaching beyond scores and statistics to reveal the humanity woven into the games we love,” Obama said.

Deford appeared on and wrote regularly for NPR until just a few weeks ago. He announced his retirement in a column published May 3.

“I’ve been delivering these little homilies since 1980 — that’s 37 years — and altogether, NPR statisticians tell me, my bloviation total is 1,656 commentaries — and I trust you’ve hung onto every word,” Deford wrote. “And now, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I bid you goodbye, and take my leave.”