UPDATED 03/22/12 11:56 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Sun-Times is mourning the loss of a renowned sports writer Lacy J. Banks.

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Banks, the Sun-Times’ first African-American sportswriter, died of heart disease Wednesday at the age of 68. He joined the paper in August 1972 and remained on the staff until his death.

He was best known for covering the Bulls and the NBA, and was one of the longest-serving pro-basketball sportswriters in the country, the Sun-Times reported. He covered basketball from around the start of Michael Jordan’s career in mid-1980s to last season, when Derrick Rose led the team into the playoffs, the Sun-Times reported.

He covered the Bulls through their six titles in the 1990s, and also covered the 1981 Chicago Sting championship soccer team, the Sun-Times reported. He also covered hockey, women’s professional basketball, college football and basketball, and professional boxing, the newspaper reported.

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Banks had also been also a Baptist preacher as far back as his childhood, the Sun-Times reported.

He became known in recent years for chronicling his battle with prostate cancer, a brain tumor and heart disease.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement on Banks’ passing Thursday morning.

“Lacy was not just a sports writer; he was a trailblazer in his field,” the mayor said in part in the statement. “By sharing his courtside seat with the city for nearly four decades and writing in beautiful detail, he told a story that was bigger than sport; he told a story about how a team can tie a city’s hopes and communities together.”

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Banks was 68, and is survived by his wife, three daughters and five grandchildren.