Tennis icon Bud Collins, the colorful Hall of Fame sportscaster, died on Friday at age 86.
Collins covered more than half a century of tennis championships. He died in his Brookline, Mass., home.
Collins was a sportswriter for the Boston Globe in the early 1960s and became an analyst for CBS and NBC beginning in 1968 as one of the first major writers to transition to television. The bow-tie wearing Collins worked at NBC from 1972 to 2007, hosting his "Breakfast at Wimbledon" broadcasts.
"Through his writing, his television work, his constant promotion of the game, no one did more to grow the sport of tennis than Bud Collins," said Vince Doria, who worked with Collins for more than 20 years, first as sports editor at the Boston Globe and later as senior vice president for news at ESPN. "The world will always view him in that light. But those who knew him best will remember that no one had a better friend than Bud Collins. And no one had more friends than Bud Collins."
In 2015, the United States Tennis Association named the media center at its U.S. Open site in Collins' honor. He was enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994 and was a past winner of the nation's highest sports writing honor, the Red Smith Award.
"No media figure in history in my mind has ever been as important to one sport as Bud Collins was to the sport of tennis," Mike Lupica, a New York Daily News sports columnist and commentator on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters," told the Boston Globe. "You can't minimize it. He became the de facto ambassador to that sport as it was exploding in this country. He educated. He entertained."
Collins explained the stories behind the game, including the stars and the rivalries at the time: Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe; Steffi Graf and Monica Seles; Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi; and Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
"He had a passion for the game and the players that was unmatched," Evert told ESPN. "He brought a bright light and an oasis to the often pressure-filled and ego-oriented world of professional tennis. I would relax around his warmth and wit. He was family."