June 7, 2008— -- Jim McKay, 86, a longtime television sports journalist, has died of natural causes in Maryland, according to a statement from the McKay family.
McKay is best known for hosting "ABC's Wide World of Sports" and 12 Olympic Games.
McKay won numerous awards for journalism, including the George Polk Memorial Award and two Emmys -- one for his sports coverage, the other for his news reporting -- for his work at the 1972 Munich Olympics, which were tragically affected by the Black September terrorists' attack on the Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village.
"Jim was a regular guy who wrote and spoke like a poet," Bob Iger, president and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement. "He loved sports. To him, sports defined life -- full of drama, adventure, accomplishment and disappointment. The thrill of victory for some, the agony of defeat for others."
ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer said there are "no superlatives that can adequately honor Jim McKay."
"He meant so much to so many people," Bodenheimer said in a statement. "He was a founding father of sports television, one of the most respected commentators in the history of broadcasting and journalism.
"For more than 60 years he brought sports into the homes of Americans on Wide World of Sports, the Olympics and many other programs that captured the essence of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
"Jim was the ultimate colleague, having helped generations of people who have now taken his mantle. He was also a warm and devoted family man. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Margaret, Sean and Mary for their loss. And I know that countless people, around the world, have been touched by this great man. We will miss him."
In 1968, McKay won the first of his 13 Emmy Awards, becoming the first sports commentator to receive that honor.
His 12th Emmy, in 1988, was not for his talents as a broadcaster but as the writer of the openings for ABC Sports' coverage of the 1987 Indianapolis 500, the British Open and the Kentucky Derby. He is the only broadcaster to have won Emmys for sports and news broadcasting and for writing.
In 1990 he was the recipient of the first-ever Lifetime Achievement in Sports award from the Academy. In 1992 he was the recipient of an Emmy Award in the Individual Achievement category for the ABC Sports special, "Athletes and Addiction: It's Not a Game."
In 1989 McKay received the Peabody Award, which is presented annually to recognize the most distinguished and meritorious public service programming rendered each year on radio and television.
McKay was the first American network sports commentator to visit mainland China. In 1991, he visited Cuba to interview Fidel Castro.
McKay was with "ABC's Wide World of Sports" since its inception in April 1961.
Jim McManus (McKay's real name) was born in Philadelphia on September 24, 1921, and moved to Baltimore when he was 15.
He graduated from Loyola College there, then entered the United States Navy as an officer during World War II. At the war's conclusion, he was captain of a minesweeper.
ABCNews' staff contributed to this report.