Kiefer Sutherland presented the award to the SportsCenter personality, who is known for injecting excitement and his “booyah” catchphrase, as he lightheartedly noted that 24 is his favorite show: “Jack Bauer saved the world and he introduced me!” he laughed to a standing ovation.
Scott invoked the award’s namesake, Jim Valvano, the former North Carolina State University basketball coach who died of bone cancer in 1993. His legendary speech at the first-ever ESPYs announced the creation of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and its motto: “Don’t give up … don’t ever give up.”
“To be honored with this,” he said, “I know I have a responsibility to never give up. I’m not special; I just listened to what the man said.”
Scott offered plenty of inspiration of his own, crediting the people around him and even his bosses for fighting on his behalf when he no longer had it in him. “I just got out of the hospital; I had four surgeries in the span of seven days,” he revealed, silencing the Nokia Theatre audience. “I had tubes running through every part of my body. As of Sunday, I didn’t even know if I could make it here. I couldn’t fight. But the doctors and nurses could; the people that I loved and my friends and family, they could. This whole fight, this journey thing, is not a solo venture, this is something that requires support.”
Before beginning his speech, a video documenting Scott’s treatments and road back to work showed the lively anchor in a doctor’s room, drained, struggling to smile for the camera. “I’m not losing. I’m still here fighting,” he managed to tell the camera.
“I’ve got to amend that,” Scott said onstage, clutching the award. “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, while you live and the manner in which you live,” which triggered a roaring applause.
Scott’s touching speech concluded when he asked his younger daughter to join him onstage. “The best thing I’ve ever done, the best thing I will ever do is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni,” he said of his children. “I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters. I love you girls more than I will ever be able to express. You are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage tonight because of you.”
His eldest daughter, Taelor, was away at college on Wednesday night, but Sydni came up and hugged her dad. He thoughtfully closed his speech, “Have a great rest of your night and have a great rest of your life.”
Scott, who has been with ESPN since 1993, recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “When we say we love our jobs and are stealing money [from ESPN], we mean it … it is not the two hours we’re on air — it is the time before, watching our favorite sports with our friends is the fun part.”
Debbie Emery contributed to this story.