The ESPYs have provided some of the sports world’s most compelling moments over the years, encapsulating seasons and memories from each sports year with moving speeches and bigger-than-sports moments.
This year’s 27th edition of the ESPY awards in Los Angeles, hosted by Tracy Morgan, is sure to showcase a bundle of powerful moments. Bill Russell is set to win the Arthur Ashe Courage award, Rob Mendez — a football coach without arms or legs — is slated to take home the Jimmy V Award, and the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team will be up for the best team award.
USA TODAY Sports highlights the five most emotional and meaningful moments in the award show’s rich history:
1. Jimmy V’s speech (1993)
Beloved college basketball coach Jim Valvano inspired a nation with his words at the 1993 inaugural show, providing words that are now etched on sports statues and t-shirts. Valvano, who went on to die from cancer less than two months later, told everyone to laugh, think, and cry each day, punctuating it with: “don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”
He added: “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”
His speech helped launch the V Foundation For Cancer Research, ultimately saving millions of lives.
2. Stuart Scott’s speech (2014)
The Jimmy V Award has lent itself to some powerful speeches over the years, and the words delivered by ESPN and SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott (best known for his catchphrase “boo yah”) were truly Jimmy V-esque. Scott, who went on to die less than six months after his 2014 speech, told his teenage daughters, Taelor and Sydni, in the audience: “I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express. You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you.”
He then addressed a nation: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
3. Pat Summit’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award (2012)
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the late University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach embraced everyone in the crowd by explaining how she was battling the illness, “I’ve