“I urge all of you to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. Spend each day with laughter, and some thought. To get your emotions going, to be enthusiastic everyday, to keep your dreams alive,” said Jimmy Valvano during his historic 1993 ESPY speech.
It has been 20 years since Jimmy Valvano, known as Jimmy V., delivered his emotional speech at the 1993 ESPYs.
The former NC State head coach received the Arthur Ashe Award, an award ESPN says goes to a person “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”
Jimmy V. opened his memorable speech urging everyone to laugh, to think and to cry. In almost perfect fashion, his speech compelled us to do all.
As Mike Krzyzewski and Dick Vitale helped him off the stage at the end of his speech, many knew his time was closing. Indeed, Jimmy V’s speech ended up being his final words to the world–he passed away 8 weeks later.
Before Jimmy V.’s legendary speech, before his battle with cancer, before his foundation; it was the 1983 basketball season. NC State was a struggling team, with almost no chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
In order to even make the Big Dance, the Wolfpack beat Wake Forest, North Carolina and Virginia, by a combined total of 11 points.
Jimmy V. coined NC State’s mantra for the season: “Survive and Advance.” And that is exactly what they did.
In the first round, against Pepperdine, the Pack trailed by 6 points in less than a minute, but somehow came away with the victory. The NCAA tournament’s biggest Cinderella Story had begun.
Next came UNLV, and the Pack once again found themselves down. Down by 12 with 12 minutes remaining in the game, they once again mounted an incredible comeback.
The Sweet Sixteen came, but this time, NC State throttled Utah, 75-56.
Then came Virginia. The ACC rivals were playing against each other for the fourth time in the season.
The Wolfpack had already turned heads, and many expected an end to NC State’s already unbelievable season.
However, Lorenzo Charles, the soon-to-be hero of NC State basketball, knocked down two free throws in the closing second to win the game.
After another NC State victory, it was the championship game, David vs. Goliath.
Goliath was the University of Houston, a basketball powerhouse at the time. They boasted two future NBA Hall of Famers, Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler.
The Pack, not fazed by the magnitude of the moment, took a lead into halftime. However, after a Houston comeback, the score was 52-52 in the closing seconds.
The intended play broke down, and guard Dereck Whittenburg ended up throwing up a wild airball. “The Airball.”
As the ball fell short of the rim, Lorenzo Brown grabbed it out of the air and dunked it.
Houston was helpless as the last second ticked off the clock and the NC State bench cleared out onto the floor in celebration.
The scene is still surreal; the shocked look of the Houston players, and Jimmy V. running on the court looking for someone to hug.
Nobody had expected their championship run except, perhaps, Jim Valvano himself. At one point in the season, he even had the team practicing cutting down the net.
Fast forward ten years. Jimmy V is in his last days on this Earth. In a time where others may have laid in bed, he went to work.
He gave a touching speech that gave much-needed light on cancer, and shortly after founded the V Foundation. The foundation is a charity in which 100% of donations go towards cancer research. The V Foundation has already raised over $100 million for various cancer research facilities nationwide.
He left this foundation with a single slogan, a motto for not only his foundation, but also life in general. “Don’t give up…don’t ever give up!”
In sports, there are greats. Then, there are those that transcend sports. Those who use sports simply as a platform to change many more lives.
There, in this rarefied group, lies Jimmy V.