On my way home from work last week, I turned on ESPN radio and listened to a preview for this year’s ESPYS. My excitement for the ESPYS began when I heard John Cena would host the show, but also when I remembered that 2016 has produced many phenomenal moments in sports. Villanova won the NCAA Championship at the buzzer. The city of Cleveland won its first title in 52 years. Basketball legend Kobe Bryant retired after dropping 60 points in his final game, and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning capped his final season off with a Super Bowl victory. In addition, Leicester City defied odds of 5000 to 1 and won the English Premiere League. While I looked forward to a recap of these amazing moments, I really wanted to see the ESPYS because the event often highlights individuals that transcend sports and inspire others.
As I listened to the ESPYS preview, I felt inspired when the radio station played Jim Valvano’s famous ESPYS speech. Jim Valvano was the NC State basketball coach that led the team to a Cinderella NCAA title run in 1983. Valvano later accepted ESPN’s inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award for his fight against cancer. On that night, he delivered an incredible acceptance speech and set up The V Foundation for Cancer Research. In his speech, Valvano says that “if you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” As I sat on the parkway stuck in traffic, I found myself laughing at the stories of the New York native. I also reflected on his words as Valvano calls individuals to think about “where you started, where you are, and where you’re going to be.” I was moved by the coach’s words: “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul.”
Since my freshman year at Boston College, I have been a member of a student organization called Hoops for Hope. Each year, we host a 3 vs. 3 basketball tournament in order to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The donations from the tournament and other campus events go to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. As a member of the event planning committee and also a participant in the tournament, I have witnessed how sports can bring people together for a common cause as too many of us know a family member or friend who has battled cancer.
During his speech, Valvano coined the phrase “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” as the motto for The V Foundation. Although he passed away two months after his speech, The V Foundation continues his battle with its mission to find a cure and save lives. Coach Valvano serves as one of my inspirations as he left his mark on the world by bringing cancer research into the spotlight. While 2016 has been an awesome year for sports fans, listening to Valvano’s speech in the car and watching the ESPYS later at home reminded me that sometimes the best sports stories are the ones that happen away from the game.