Why Jimmy V's ESPY speech still hits home 23 years later

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Joe Biden to Present Jimmy V award to Craig Sager at 2016 ESPY Awards

"Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

You remember the line. You've heard it time and time again.

Twenty-three years ago, Jim Valvano took the stage during the first ESPY Awards at Madison Square Garden and delivered one of the most iconic speeches in sports history.


The former N.C. State coach, who stunned the hoops community when his 1983 team upset Houston's Phi Slama Jama to win the national championship, inspired a much larger community during his battle with cancer.

On March 4, 1993, Valvano was honored with the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the ESPY Awards. Despite his failing health, Valvano spoke for more than 10 minutes about his life and his illness with a positivity.

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"Cancer can take away all my physical abilities," Valvano said. "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."


He passed away several weeks later at age 47, but Jimmy V never gave up. Twenty-three years later, and we're still talking about this speech. It's timeless, prophetic and it can resonate with the most ordinary of people. The message, in its entirety, is something we can all learn from.

Vice President Joe Biden will present the 2016 Jimmy V Award to Craig Sager at ESPY Awards on Wednesday night. The show will air at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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