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Les Shapiro, Colorado sports broadcast legend, passes away at 65

The former CU Buffs commentator passes away after a five-year cancer battle,

Clint Dempsey, of the U.S. mens national team and an MLS all-star... Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Les Shapiro, an icon in the Colorado broadcasting scene for nearly the past fourty years, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 65.

The longtime television personality was most-recognizable for covering the Colorado Buffaloes at KCNC-TV CBS 4 from 1984 to 1999. He would later take on anchor duties for rival station FOX 31 before making his way to the radio airwaves with ESPN Denver and Mile High Sports.

Shapiro passed away Saturday afternoon peacefully surrounded by his family in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a five-year battle with lung cancer, a disease spawned after never smoking a day in his life.

The Shapiro family announced that Les would be entering hospice care earlier this week and asked for memories from his friends and supporters to be shared with him in his final days. A huge outpouring of tributes were given by some of Shapiro’s closest friends and colleagues.

“I’m thinking about all the years we worked together and all the years we competed against each other,” said former Denver news anchor Ron Zappolo.

“I think the competition brought out the best in us... and sometimes the worst. I do know that when we competed I had to be at my best because I knew that If I didn’t, you would beat me. He went on to say, “Thanks for all the conversations back in that tiny cubby hole we shared at Channel 4. I wish I could hug you right now.”

“Les and I ended up being very good friends,” former Broncos coach and Ring of Famer Mike Shanahan told the Denver Post. “Every once in a while, he would say, ‘Hey can I come over to your house and watch a game? I’d like to know more.’ So we would watch football games together. The thing about Les is that he always wanted to learn, about sports in general.”

Shapiro left his mark on all things Denver sports both at the collegiate level and professionally. Some of the Buffs most memorable moments during the Bill McCartney era were chronicled by him first-hand behind the desk or in the booth at Folsom Field.

KCNC Channel 4 was the ‘Home of the CU athletics’ long before the days of major TV contracts, which put Shapiro front and center for the Buffaloes back-to-back National Championship runs and Rashaan Salaam’s Heisman year, among many other highlights. He also called Colorado’s infamous ‘Fifth Down’ play in Missouri and recalled the events for the 25th anniversary.

It wasn’t just the Buffs; but Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies, Avs and others as well. A group of Super Bowls, Stanley Cup Championships, and a World Series run— just some of events listed on Shapiro’s resume throughout the years. An old-school journalist and professional in every sense of the word.

He is survived by his wife, Paula, and sons Jessie and Cary. Our thoughts are with the Shapiro family during this difficult time.