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Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt dead at 74

Lamar Hunt, the pro sports visionary who owned the Kansas City Chiefs and came up with the term “Super Bowl,” died Wednesday night. He was 74.

Hunt, a founder of the American Football League and one of the driving forces behind the AFL-NFL merger, died at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas of complications from prostate cancer, Chiefs spokesman Bob Moore said.

Hunt battled cancer for several years and was hospitalized the day before Thanksgiving with a partially collapsed lung. Doctors discovered that the cancer had spread, and Hunt had been under heavy sedation since last week.

“He was a founder. He was the energy, really, that put together half of the league, and then he was the key person in merging the two leagues together,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Hunt’s neighbor. “You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that’s made a bigger contribution (to the NFL) than Lamar Hunt.”

Carl Peterson, the Chiefs’ president and general manager, called Hunt “arguably the greatest sportsman of this last half-century, although he never sought fame or recognition for the improvements and changes he brought to the world’s sports institutions.”

“His was a creative, constructive and loving life not nearly long enough and we will likely never see one like it again,” Peterson said.

The son of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, Lamar Hunt grew up in Dallas and attended a private boys’ prep school in Pennsylvania, serving as captain of the football team in his senior year. His love of sports led to his nickname, “Games.”

Hunt played football at SMU, but never rose above third string. His modest achievements on the field were dwarfed by his accomplishments as an owner and promoter of teams in professional football, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer and bowling.

Hunt’s business dealings were also the stuff of headlines. Hunt didn’t need to make money — his father was an oil wildcatter who was often referred to as the richest man in the world. But he tried to build on his father’s wealth.

Along with two brothers, Hunt tried to corner the silver market in 1979 and 1980. Their oil investments also soured in the 1980s. Some estimated the family’s losses in the billions.

Hunt also suffered setbacks in the world of pro sports, but overcame them.