While watching the 2014 ESPN ESPY Awards, many people were likely overcome with a feeling of deja vu and a reminder of the powerful moment that occurred during the very first ESPY awards show. It’s hard to believe that was 21 years ago, when Jimmy Valvano gave his now legendary speech “Don’t give up, Don’t ever give up.” Fast forward to 2014, when popular ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Stuart Scott was honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
Ironically, it was the same year that Jimmy V gave his speech that Scott joined the SportsCenter team. Scott gained popularity with his energy and passion as he introduced catch phrases like “boo-ya,” “call him butter…he’s on a roll,” and “cooler than the other side of the pillow” as part of his broadcasting repertoire. Scott has had a sports-casting career for many to envy. He’s spent more than 20 years with ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN the Magazine. He worked on several NFL shows, hosted the NBA Finals and had many top interviews including Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
After all of those successes, many have said that it was his recent speech that was the highlight of his career. That story goes back to 2007, when Scott was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Despite this, he maintained a positive attitude through his battle. He frequently sent positive tweets from his twitter account.
During his recent acceptance speech, Scott reflected back to the Jimmy V speech from 21 years earlier and said “To be honored with this … I know I have a responsibility to never give up,” Scott said. “I’m not special; I just listened to what the man said.”
“At my gut level, I really didn’t think that I belonged with those great people…But I listened to what Jim Valvano said 21 years ago, the most poignant seven words ever uttered in any speech anywhere: ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.’ Those great people didn’t. Coach Valvano didn’t. So to be honored with this, I now have a responsibility to also not ever give up. I’m not special. I just listened to what the man said.”
He then went on to say “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, while you live and the manner in which you live.” He adds “Our life’s journey is really about the people that touch us.”
Just like Jimmy V, who gave his speech while undergoing treatment and shortly before his death, Scott also talked about how difficult it is to suffer with a disease like cancer. In fact, prior to the show, he underwent four surgeries in the span of seven days.
In my opinion, Stuart Scott truly is cooler than the other side of the pillow!
If you missed his speech, here it is (including ESPN’s introduction to his battle).
The original Jimmy V “don’t give up, don’t ever give up” story can be found here.
To me, both of these guys are true heroes. Both stayed strong during their darkest moments and when challenged with some of life’s most difficult challenges. Neither let their circumstances rule them; rather they accepted life’s challenges and managed to change their negative circumstances to be motivators to live life fully. In some ways, their misfortunes became blessing to live life more fully. That is truly a life lesson to be learned through our sports heroes.