On a night when LeBron James took home three individual awards, his biggest honor may have been the privilege of introducing Robin Roberts for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
The Miami Heat, individually and collectively, earned a total of five ESPYs Wednesday night: Best Game and Best Team (Heat) and Best Championship Performance, Best NBA Player and Best Male Athlete (LeBron James).
But it was Roberts, Jack Hoffman and Dick and Rick Hoyt that had the audience (and some of us at home) standing to give applause.
Twenty years ago, ESPN created the ESPY awards as an athletic version of the Hollywood Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards. A night to show appreciation for outstanding athletic achievement.
However, it was that night that Jim Valvano gave one of the most iconic speeches in memory, and turned the ESPY awards into not only a celebration of athletic achievement but also an appreciation of those who inspire us. I don’t remember a single athlete or team award from those ESPY awards 20 years ago, but I’ll never forget that speech.
Last night, Robin Roberts delivered a speech that inspired in much the same way as Valvano’s. Where the Valvano speech inspired us to try and make a difference, the Robert’s speech showed us that we have. Jack Hoffman, the young boy stricken with cancer, who scored a touchdown in the Nebraska spring football game, and Dick and Rick Hoyt, who have been running marathons for 30+ years, showed us where sport can take us.
The 2013 ESPY awards was truly a celebration of those who have worked, battled and overcome. It gave a new understanding of the phrase earned, not given.