The 5 ESPY Award Speeches That Made Us Cry Like Babies
Although it’s never easy having meaningful sporting events this time of year—with apologies to the MLB All-Star Game, of course—one thing that helps sports fans suck it up and get our fix are the ESPY Awards, annually organized by ESPN to honor the best in sports over the past year.
Beginning all the way back in 1993, the ESPYs have provided a handful of solid memories, rewarding those whose stories may not have been front-page news, while allowing amateur coaches and athletes the chance to mingle with their favorite superstars.
As each winner accepts their award, there’s always anticipation as to what they will say, sometimes shocking us all and bringing us to tears—which happens quite frequently, actually.
Sure, crying might not be the manliest thing, but who really gives a damn, because there’s no way in hell you can hold them back when hearing these ESPY speeches, which will forever live on as the sappiest in the award show’s history.
And with this year’s version of the ESPY Awards going on tomorrow, being hosted by Joel McHale, we can certainly expect a few more signature moments that could end up on this list.
5. Pat Summitt Earns the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage (2012)
Arguably the greatest and most influential college basketball coach in history—yes, that’s for men and women—former Tennessee Volunteer women’s hoops coach Pat Summitt had always seemed to be a rock of consistency.
Whether that was by her demeanor on the sidelines or when talking to a reporter, Summitt rarely showed a sensitive side.
That is, of course, until the 2012 ESPY Awards when she was honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.
Introduced by UT great, Peyton Manning, Summit—who resigned as the Lady Vols’ head coach earlier that year because of Alzheimer’s disease—heard the NFL quarterback talk about how her battle inspired him, which began a few tears to drop.
With Summitt being escorted by her son Tyler towards the podium, she delivered a powerful speech that talked about how she will fight and, “keep on keeping on,” in order to win her battle—which left attendees and viewers wiping their eyes.
4. Robin Roberts Earns the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage (2013)
Longtime ESPN and ABC announcer Robin Roberts has always proven to be a strong woman—and she didn’t disappoint when receiving her Arthur Ashe Award for Courage in 2013.
Getting a standing ovation from the crowd—who were well-aware of Roberts overcoming battles with breast cancer and MDS—she left the crowd on the edge of their seats, giving advice that uplifted more than just a few people listening.
Referencing a quote that her mom always said to her about making, “your mess your message,” Robin Roberts wanted to make sure that everyone knew that, no matter what struggles were going on in one’s life, there is always a solution within oneself to overcome them.
3. Stuart Scott Earns the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance (2014)
For over 20 years, Stuart Scott was always remembered for his catchy phrases and hip style, bringing a new element to ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter.
But, I admit, when Scott first walked up on stage during the 2014 ESPY Awards, looking rail thin and exhausted, it was a little difficult to accept. After all, this is the man who had reinvented what it was like to be cool as a sportscaster.
Composing himself enough to deliver an unbelievably emotional speech in which he spoke about his seven-year battle with cancer, Scott called his daughter onto stage with the words, “Give Dad a hug, because I need one,” showing just how caught up in the moment he really was.
Adding more tears to this story is the fact that Scott passed away a few months following the ESPYs, making this his last, real public appearance for sports fans to remember him by.
2. Michael Sam Earns the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage (2014)
Regardless of what your stance is on homosexuality—it’s 2015, bros, so it shouldn’t be a negative one—when current NFL free agent Michael Sam walked to the stage to receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage in 2014, it should have been a touching moment.
The first openly gay athlete who was, at the time, still active, Sam received both praise and criticism for his announcement prior to being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh-round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Beginning his speech by quoting Ashe himself with the words, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can,” the former Missouri Tigers standout instantly got the audience’s attention.
He went on to tell a number of stories about the difficulties of announcing one’s sexuality, with the powerful words of, “Great things can happen if you have the courage to be yourself.”
1. Jim Valvano Earns the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage (1993)
There’s just nothing like the original, as the speech that former North Carolina State Wolfpack men’s head basketball coach, Jim Valvano, remains one of the most inspirational in history.
Taking the stage just months before his death due to cancer, Valvano found enough in him to walk up to the stage to accept the first ever Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, even after there was news that he was too sick to almost travel to the ceremony.
Completely owning the room as only he could, Jimmy V delivered a speech that left everyone in the room searching for a tissue to wipe their tears away with, with the words, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” going down as his lasting legacy.