In 1993, beloved coach Jim Valvano gave a speech at the first ESPYs that inspired a generation.

It's bigger than sports.

ESPN's annual award show, the ESPYs, honors remarkable achievements in athletics.

NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and Taye Diggs present Kevin Durant with the award for Best Male Athlete. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.


But this star-studded program is much more than fun and games. At the 2015 ESPYs, Caitlyn Jenner will be recognized for her bravery in sharing her personal journey and for the work she's done to highlight the daily struggles of the trans community in a story that transcends sports.

At the very first ESPYs in 1993, basketball coach Jimmy Valvano received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Valvano (widely known as "Jimmy V") was a beloved college basketball coach at NC State in the 1980s and became a color commentator for ESPN in 1990.

Coach Valvano celebrates after his team wins the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship in 1983. Photo by Getty Images.

But in the summer of 1992, Valvano was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

With months to live, Jimmy V took to the stage at the ESPYs to accept the award and gave the speech of his life.

His wise words on hope, persistence, and the the beauty of life inspired not just the sports community, but fans and supporters across the country.


GIFs via the Jimmy V Foundation.

Though he passed away a few months later, Jimmy V's message of hope and persistence lives on.

During the ESPYs, with financial support from ESPN, Jimmy V announced the formation of the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Its motto? Wise words from the man himself.

Since its launch in 1993, the Jimmy V Foundation has awarded over $130 million to more than 100 facilities across the country.

At the 2007 ESPYs, ESPN presented the first Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

The honor recognizes individuals who display extraordinary determination in the face of adversity. Past winners include Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed after an on-field incident, and ESPN commentator Stuart Scott, who passed away in January 2015 after battling cancer.

This year, the honor goes to Leah Still, cancer survivor and five-year-old daughter of Cincinnati Bengals tackle Devon Still.


Even in the extravagant world of professional sports, Jimmy V made a difference by being compassionate, honest, and vulnerable.

Through the ESPYs and the work of his foundation, he continues to inspire generations of athletes and fans to stay positive, humble, and grateful.

Need a bit of motivation? Watch Jimmy V's moving acceptance speech below.


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