Frank Deford, longtime sports commentator, dead at 78

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Legendary sports writer Frank Deford, who spent five decades as perhaps the defining voice of Sports Illustrated during the magazine's peak, died Sunday in Key West, Florida.

Deford began working for Sports Illustrated after graduating from Princeton in 1962, and went on to enjoy a tenure of over 50 years.

Deford had announced his retirement from NPR after 37 years earlier this month.

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Deford also authored 20 books.

Reporters banded together on Twitter to reflect on Deford's career and share their condolences.

Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Deford III was born on December 16, 1938, in Baltimore, MD, and graduated from Princeton University in 1962.

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"In addition to his reporting for Real Sports, Deford wrote several documentaries for HBO including "Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports", Sports on the Silver Screen", and "Barbaro". He thanked NPR for allowing him to choose his topics and allowing him "to treat sports seriously, as another branch on the tree of culture".

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". "And now, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I bid you goodbye, and take my leave".

Deford is a member of the Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, was named Sportswriter of the Year by that organization six times, and is generally considered one of the truly great sportswriters of any era. "We all owe him a debt".

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