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Jim Simpson

The first play-by-play announcer for ESPN, Jim Simpson, died Wednesday morning in Scottsdale, Ariz, after a short illness, his family said, according to ESPN. He was 88.

Simpson worked for many years at NBC where he announced the World Series, Olympics and Wimbledon and did play by play for Super Bowl I for NBC Radio.

He was doing play by play on AFL games for NBC when he was hired by ESPN in 1979. Simpson gave ESPN credibility when it was just starting out as a cable network.

He called many sports at ESPN including college football, college basketball, the NBA and the USFL.


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In a statement, ESPN founder and first president Bill Rasmussen said, "On Jim's first visit to Bristol I met him at the airport and immediately experienced his warm personality. He brought tremendous credibility to ESPN in our early days, doing whatever was needed to help build the network. Jim was a television legend."

ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who partnered with Simpson on college basketball games, said in a statement, "Jim Simpson was a legend at NBC at brought a standard of excellence to ESPN that set the tone for so many to follow. I was honored he was assigned to work with me as I was just starting out. He had a tremendous influence on me and assisted me early in my career. He was special. Jim Simpson was as good as it gets."

He received the Lifetime Time Achievement Award at the annual Sports Emmy Awards, in 1997 and was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame on May 1, 2000.

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