Legendary “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer paid tribute to the show’s host Alex Trebek on Sunday, shortly after the program announced the beloved figure had died following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” Jennings tweeted, along with a photo of the two of them. “Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family—which, in a way, included millions of us.”
Jennings holds the titles of most consecutive games won and highest winnings on the show during regular season play, according to the show’s website. In January, he emerged victorious in the “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament — becoming the show’s best player ever.
Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him. pic.twitter.com/CdHCcbqmp2 — Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 8, 2020
Holzhauer also offered kind words in the wake of the iconic television host’s death.
Get Breaking News Delivered to Your Inbox
“It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life,” tweeted Holzhauer. “You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex.”
Holzhauer, a professional gambler, became a sensation in 2019 during a 32-day streak on the show. He took home $2.462 million during the time, making him the second-biggest winner in “Jeopardy!” history and only the second person after Jennings to pass the $2 million mark. He currently holds the show’s record for most single-game winnings, according to the show’s website.
The star continued, explaining Trebek was “so much more than a host.”
“He was an impartial arbiter of truth and facts in a world that needs exactly that,” the champion wrote. “He was someone you could count on to entertain you every weekday, even when his health barely allowed it.”
He also shared a video of Trebek saying rap lyrics during the show, jokingly calling him “an underrated rapper.”
Holzhauer urged anyone wishing to honor the host’s memory to consider donating to his favorite charity, World Vision, an organization that helps children and families in need. Holzhauer made a donation to pancreatic cancer research in honor of Trebek in June of 2019.
It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life. You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex. https://t.co/LLoUASRMa9 — James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) November 8, 2020
Trebek announced he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2019, but despite the diagnosis, never missed a single day of work. This past March he celebrated beating the one-year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients — just 18%.
“I’d be lying if I said the journey had been an easy one,” Trebek said at the time in an emotional video. “There were some good days, but a lot of not-so-good days. I joked with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo treatments will.”
Trebek told “CBS Sunday Morning” in May 2019 that “it wouldn’t be right” for him to walk away from the show. “It wouldn’t be right for me to walk away from this if I can possibly do it,” Trebek said. “And I managed to do it. So, what’s the big deal?”
The star began on the quiz show in 1984, earning six Daytime Emmys and hosting over 8,000 episodes.
Caroline Linton contributed to this report.
Disclaimer: “Jeopardy!” is distributed by CBS Television Distribution, a division of ViacomCBS.