Revisiting Jim Valvano’s iconic ‘Don’t ever give up’ ESPYs speech on 30th anniversary

Certain moments in basketball stand the test of time. They rarely perform off-court. Jim Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards is one such exception.

Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of Valvano’s legendary “Never Give Up” speech, which he delivered to an emotional audience less than two months before his death.

For someone who seemed to know the end was near, Valvano was as optimistic as could be. He set himself the goal of eradicating cancer for good, a battle that rages on to this day but was undoubtedly influenced by his words.

Valvano’s speech made such an impact that a generation of basketball fans who haven’t seen him coach will know his words. From “V Week” during each college basketball season to the Jimmy V Award presented annually at ESPYS, Valvano’s legacy is very much alive today.

MORE: What is the Jimmy V Award? ESPYS have honored Jim Valvano since 2007

The Sporting News takes a look back at some of the most memorable moments from Valvano’s speech.

Highlights of Jim Valvano’s “Never Give Up” speech.

Valvano received the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at ESPYS in 1993. At the beginning of his acceptance speech, he offered suggestions on how to live each day. The words still resonate with many:

“No. 1 is laughter. You should laugh every day. #2 is reflection. You should spend some time in thought. And number 3 is that you should bring your emotions to tears. Could be happiness or joy, but think about it: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a whole day. It’s a damn good day. If you do that seven days a week, you’ll have something special.”

Read  NFL QB stability rankings: From franchise guys like Tom Brady to wannabes like Kirk Cousins, and everyone in between

That’s when the speech became a speech that sports fans would hear for decades to come:

“That screen flashes up there for 30 seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I have tumors all over my body. I’m worried some guy is doing ’30 seconds’ in the background?”

As the night drew to a close, Valvano uttered the four-word phrase still associated with him:

“And his motto is, ‘Don’t give up. Never give up.’ And I’ll try to do that every minute I have.”

At the end of his speech, Valvano declared victory over the cancer he knew would take his life:

“Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. He can’t touch my mind. He can’t touch my heart. And he can’t touch my soul. And those three things will go on forever.”

You can watch Valvano’s full speech below.

Who Was Jim Valvano?

Valvano was one of college basketball’s most successful coaches from a young age. At 33 he took Iona to the NCAA tournament and at 37 won a national championship with NC State.

1983 national champion Wolfpack remains one of college basketball’s most amazing stories. NC State entered the NCAA tournament as No. 6 but shocked Hakeem Olajuwon and top-seeded Houston in the title game.

Valvano resigned in 1990 after the NCAA found rule violations by NC State players and concluded that the coaching staff did not exercise sufficient oversight of players’ academics.

MORE: TSN Archives: All Hail the Wolfpack Savior (March 21, 1983 Edition)

Jim Valvano’s legacy

Valvano’s speech left a lasting legacy, but Valvano made it clear that he wanted his legacy to be in cancer research and treatment, and ultimately a cure.

Read  Julie Harrington refutes claims BHA pandering to racing’s critics with whip changes

“I can’t thank ESPN enough for making this happen and I will work as hard as I can for cancer research. And hopefully we will… maybe we will have some healings and some breakthroughs,” Valvano told the crowd.

While the world still hasn’t found a cure, the V Foundation for Cancer Research continues to raise large amounts of money. The foundation says it has given more than $310 million in grants nationwide since 1993 and has been sponsored by college basketball legends like Valvano’s friends Mike Krzyzewski and Dick Vitale.

ESPN hosts an annual “V Week” just after Thanksgiving, which encourages donations and uses college basketball programs to highlight the work of the V Foundation.

Every advance in cancer care is a reminder of the movement Valvano started and the advances that lie ahead.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button